What a year!!
More than any year I have been struggling this year with the question of the usefulness of being an artist. The pandemic situation revived in me the urge to do something for others. What could I do as a shakuhachi player?
Insecurity is already part of an artistic life, whether you like it or not. So maybe, as an artist, I was better prepared to deal with the feeling of insecurity caused by the pandemic. This shows us how fragile – and strong- we are. Playing shakuhachi helps me to accept my vulnerability. At the same time, the deep breathing with long breaths quiets my mind and gives me strength. “A long and healthy breath to all” has become my daily prayer. Just blowing one note, RO, is enough to connect to the deep peace inside me. When I play ROBUKI online together with my meditation group, I feel my sense of groundedness increasing, I feel the energy flowing through my body and the negative emotions being chased away.
Connecting to people became suddenly challenging. Coping with the lockdowns and the constant changes of situation throughout the year, months after months, has been really difficult. I am grateful that some of my students followed me online and that I could continue teaching and interacting with them. I am grateful that I got to know new students from different countries. The closing of physical borders opened a digital world of Zoom lessons ; travel issues turned into Internet connection stability and digital sound quality problems ; but still we remain connected and this feels good.
As a teacher, my best reward is when I hear students connect deeply to the shakuhachi. It can be during a few notes or an entire piece and it has nothing to do with technical level. During these magical moments, it doesn’t matter that the sound travels through the microphone and speakers of the computer: it just goes directly from heart to heart.
2020 = SHARE
So what could I do? Nothing else but keeping on doing my work, as good as I can. Teach, compose, inspire, send good vibes and share shakuhachi music.
SHARE has been my main goal for 2020, the one I set at the beginning of the year in January, it has been my mantra, my good resolution. I am grateful I had one because it truly helped me through the year. Although it turned out differently from my intention in January, things happened that not had happened without the current situation.
SHARE #1 – Online meditations
Without the lockdown, I might not have created an online shakuhachi community with weekly meditations. I might not have shared my Chakra meditation technique. Practicing it for months now, the group is growing deeper and deeper in it. I am happy to hear back that this helps to feel more grounded, peaceful and focused, to relax into the sound in order to free the high tones, and last but not least, to feel good.
Enjoy the nice drawings by Lilipat inspired by the Chakra meditations sessions.
I wrote several posts about shakuhachi and meditation this year and I notice how important it has become for me.
Meditation helps me to play shakuhachi better.
SHARE #2 – AFRICAN MEMORIES
Sharing my compositions for shakuhachi solo was a big step. I wanted to express the connection I feel between the Japanese and African musics and spiritualities. I also wanted to push my limits on the shakuhachi as a musical instrument to show what the flute and I are capable to play.
Two of the three compositions (Tambin and Gorée) were already achieved and performed in September 2019 at the ISFP (International Shakuhachi Festival Prague). The lockdown gave me the opportunity to finish the third one, Baobab.
Never be afraid to be sincerely yourself!
You can listen to my “African Memories” for free on YouTube. Give me a thumb up if you like them!
SHARE #3 – ONLINE & DIGITAL TEACHING
I had already a few students on Skype so teaching online was not totally new. Zoom was new. Switching my teaching from 10% to 100% through the computer made a huge difference. The restrictions pushed me out of my comfort zone. It stimulated my imagination to find alternatives. The time I gained from not traveling, I used it to write more music, update my teaching material, record exercises and release my booklet “Honkyoku for beginners“.
To celebrate the 4th anniversary of my blog on December 13th, I gave my first online presentation about Yamato Choshi. An achievement. So happy how it went and the nice feedbacks I received afterwards.
SHARE #4 – DUO SATSUZEN
My only (full) concert of the year!!
How special it was to play live music. To play together with the flutist Catherine Balmer. To have an audience. Unforgettable!!
I can’t resist to share one piece of the program with you, despite the background noise: “Ha-mori“, composed by Sumi Atsuki.
2 other concerts with Duo Satsuzen were postponed to April 21… fingers crossed. In the meantime, we are busy working on new music… Stay tuned!
SHARE #5 – Open Podium
My other concert of the year was an open podium of 15 minutes in Nijmegen, between pop and jazz/rock bands. Just before I started to play, it started to rain, so the light engineer switched the lights off. Luckily I was playing by heart. Full meditation experience!
I don’t know yet which mantra I will choose for 2021. Maybe… PATIENCE!!
This shall pass too…
My main personal project at the moment is to release my second solo CD, featuring 7 meditation compositions (one per chakra!), some traditional honkyoku and some modern honkyoku. Music is ready, I am practicing, I just need to find the proper finances… Any little help is welcome…
And I keep my fingers crossed that concerts will be possible again…
But first of all, I will continue playing ROBUKI and praying for a better health in the world.
Stay healthy and a long breath to all!