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A shakuhachi conversation and perhaps suggestion!

 
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Kiku Day
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PostPosted: 2014-01-27, 21:18    Post subject: A shakuhachi conversation and perhaps suggestion! Reply with quote

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Today I was asked by a lecturer in London to tell her about shakuhachi, ryūha, popularity outside Japan and give her suggestions on youtube videos.

Regarding popularity of shakuhachi compared to koto and shamisen I wrote:

Shakuhachi is together with taiko drumming the most successful Japanese instrument outside Japan.... I have discussed this with David and we agreed in countries such as the US, Canada, Australia and UK, taiko may surpass shakuhachi - but elsewhere it is the shakuhachi. The shakuhachi links with Zen Buddhism and this has had a huge impact on its popularity + the music which is easy to listen to for an untrained ear. The shakuhachi history is cool, and it is easy to buy and begin to play on your own. The latter will be much harder on koto or shamisen.

Another lecturer and famous Japanese music scholar who was also copied into the email answers:

Re taiko vs shakuhachi: If you count the NUMBER OF PEOPLE who PLAY
the instrument, then taiko must outnumber shakuhachi in England (for example) at least 5 to 1, not counting lots of people who attend taiko workshops at various taiko groups' places (are there shakuhachi workshops?). Of course, as with gamelan, it's partly because it's easy to START playing a taiko, and in fact not horribly hard to become impressive and flashy fairly soon; shakuhachi takes a long time and is just beyond the ability of many people.
So it depends on how you measure popularity. Kodō is returning to the UK, with several gigs in large halls. If the greatest shakuhachi player in Japan came to the UK, would he/she get a gig at the Sage Gateshead, and if so, would the audience even fill the smaller Hall 2? But Kodō is filling up the hall well in advance.
Which is not intended to be an attack on shakuhachi and all the wonderful people who play it wonderfully outside of Japan.

I reply:

I am sure taiko outnumber shakuhachi greatly in US, Uk etc.... it is easy, it is a workout and it is group fun! Not painful solitude as shakuhachi. I don't see taiko groups so much in continental Europe. Surely a shakuhachi top guy will have to play in a little hall unless he plays November Steps. Just ain't the big popular thing like taiko. I mean - quite understandably! Have you ever seen a shakuhachi guy in fundoshi showing off his muscles? Probably better not to.... but it could boost the popularity of the instrument! Perhaps I should suggest it for the next World Shakuhachi Festival! Smile

The other lecturer replies:

Performing in fundoshi - sure, but in the interests of gender equality, please ask the women to do the same thing.

I reply:

Yeah, truth being told, I suppose one can say that the taiko chicks are way sexier than the shakuhachi chicks (not counting me as I just can't figure out this thing about looking hot or even well-dressed, so I am out)! We should learn from the taiko lads and lassies!

Anything we should so something about? Perhaps for the WSF16? Sexy shakuhachi players.... Smile
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Brian Tairaku Ritchie
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PostPosted: 2014-01-27, 22:53    Post subject: A shakuhachi conversation and perhaps suggestion! Reply with quote

Taiko and shakuhachi are quite different. Taiko is a community. A number of my students have come to me from Taiko because they wanted to get into a deeper form of Japanese music. So they do both, that's a statistic that's not reflected here.

For listening on the other hand one would expect that shakuhachi is much more popular than Taiko.
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Kiku Day
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PostPosted: 2014-01-27, 23:31    Post subject: A shakuhachi conversation and perhaps suggestion! Reply with quote

true! I didn't include the whole email. But yes, the listening part is certainly true.
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RimBlown
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PostPosted: 2014-01-29, 11:04    Post subject: A shakuhachi conversation and perhaps suggestion! Reply with quote

A Taiko ensemble putting on a show is a visual spectacle which is highly choreographed meant to be entertaining and appeal to an audience that might have no interest in the music and history other than an evening out, away from the kids.

What does a an evening of solo shakuhachi promise an uninitiated audience? A meditative experience? Ok, if it is programmed for a New Age Center but not for western audiences at a concert hall.

Because I play shakuhachi, I might buy a ticket for myself but I'd be hard pressed to find a friend or family member that I think is going to sit through it unless that shakuhachi player is playing with some sort of ensemble.

And if I am an international booking agent trying to get concert halls to book my acts (which I did for some years with Columbia Artists) I'm booking the Taiko ensemble. A shakuhachi might be motivated by Know Thyself, but a booking agent is motivated by Know Thy Audience.


As a listener, I would want to watch a great shakuhachi player in a small recital hall or some place even smaller.
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Markus Guhe
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PostPosted: 2014-01-29, 14:22    Post subject: A shakuhachi conversation and perhaps suggestion! Reply with quote

As I'm playing both taiko and shakuhachi, I feel I should contribute something here. Not sure it'll make sense.

I guess, from a performance point of view (disregarding how it is presented visually or how well shows might sell), the main difference is in how ki and mu (or ma) are being used and presented. In taiko, ki is very much in the foreground and it's easy to feel it flowing from the performers to the audience. But the most striking moments in every taiko performance are the brief moments of silence (mu/ma). For example, the moment of silence after a loud/energetic piece finishes, or an unexpected pause within a piece. And, actually, there are plenty of quiet and atmospheric taiko pieces too.

In shakuhachi, mu and silence is very much in the foreground. In honkyoku in particular, I guess, the long tones actually draw the audience into the silence. But again, that's only half the story, and (to me) a performance feels incomplete without bursts of ki that only make you feel the stillness/silence even stronger.

And, yes, it's true, you can put people on a stage to let them perform a taiko piece after just a few hours of practice. And they won't make fools of themselves. (I guess it's easier to hear a wrong note rather than a beat that's out of time for the general audience.) For me, that's a really great aspect of taiko - it makes making music easy and also accessible to many people. But to create a good taiko show (here I mean Kodo-level), performers have to practice just as hard as in shakuhachi. At this level, taiko actually is a very subtle (albeit noisy) art-form!
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Brian Tairaku Ritchie
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PostPosted: 2014-01-29, 23:39    Post subject: A shakuhachi conversation and perhaps suggestion! Reply with quote

Modern Taiko started as a combination of traditional Japanese drums and Gene Krupa type jazz drumming concepts. Now they're adding a few more modern drum ideas to it. Shakuhachi playing has a longer and more subtle evolution.
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kongwee
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PostPosted: 2014-02-06, 14:53    Post subject: A shakuhachi conversation and perhaps suggestion! Reply with quote

I think in Asia, Taiko is properly most people are interested in. At least, the young ones. Shakuhachi, koto and shamisen are not the one that get people to play.
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PostPosted: Today at 16:47    Post subject: A shakuhachi conversation and perhaps suggestion!

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