Sunday, April 30, 2006

Koto and Shakuhachi music

We went to a free performance of traditional music today that was near Nagoy Castle, there were various combinations of koto, shamisen, and a shakuhachi playing on a little open air stage in the park to a crowd of probably at least a hundred people. It was really nice--the weather was perfect and the musicians were incredibly good.

Here's a clear shot of the 'koto'--they are plucked with one hand and the other hand can press down on the strings, sort of a cross between a mountain dulcimer and a harp. These were usually played several in unison, with one (usually the lady in front) taking a lead.
Here's a shot of the 'shakuhachi' player. The shakuhachi is the traditional bamboo flute. It's played by blowing just over one edge of the open top of the tube. All other flutes are played by directing the air across a hole in the side of the tube. Even pan-pipes are played by blowing across the top of the tube opening. As far as I know, only the shakuhachi is played by blowing down onto only one side of the tube. They're really hard to play and take incredible breath control. The guy playing in the picture is really young to be as good as he was (which was very good!). They said he made his public debut when he was 14, and was in his twenties now.
These two women are playing 'shamisen'. They are sort of like three-stringed fretless banjos, but played with things that look like ice-scrapers. They can have a looser, more slidy sound than the koto.
You can see the Castle in this shot. The stage was just across the moat from the back of the castle.
Here's a shot from farther back where you can see the Castle and the hanging wisteria (called fuji) which were just blooming. The concert was from 1:00 to 2:00 so it was pretty hot sitting in the full sun, but under the arbor it was nice and cool and the wisteria smelled really good.
Another shamisen player. Here is a link to an Amazon CD listing where (if you scroll down a little) you can listen to samples of music like what they were playing.
I couldn't resist this 'funny English' shot of a bike parked at the concert. The name of the bike is 'potato'...
It says "The record breaker, leading the play, star of the game, knows training, strength and discipline. Everyone's Hero! Potato"--don't ask me why.