All posts by Hélène Seiyu Codjo

I'm a flutist, shakuhachi teacher and performer.

Summer 2018 – WSF London (2)

The World Shakuhachi Festival (WSF) in London was a great place to meet and listen to a lot of different shakuhachi players. On this aspect, it was highly inspiring. Nothing can replace live contact and live sound. Our part-time job at the festival allowed us (Daniel Seisoku Lifermann and me) to devote some time to attend several workshops and lectures, and we took some time in-between to talk to people. I was really happy to see old friends again, meet in real some Facebook friends and make some new friends, even though it was so busy and everything went so fast that it was difficult to go beyond fast contacts. It was really difficult for each teacher to present himself, his style, music and notation in one hour and ten minutes to a bench of students with various backgrounds, knowledge and level. Most of them started with: “I don’t have much time but…”, and somehow, they managed to give an idea of what they wanted to pass on.

As I said before, I couldn’t attend all the workshops and concerts I would have loved to go to. The people I am going to talk about in this post are those I could meet and feel immediately connected to, impressed or inspired by. It is very personal and reflecting my own interests at the moment. They were a lot of great players who were impressive to listen to, and people I just haven’t got the chance to meet this time. So don’t expect an exhaustive list of shakuhachi performers and/or composers here, but just those I particularly hope to stay in contact with, continue to follow their work and inspiration, and hopefully meet again. Continue reading Summer 2018 – WSF London (2)

Summer 2018 – WSF London (1)

Back home after an intensive summer of shakuhachi performing, learning and teaching, I’m now catching up on this blog. It is for me a way to reflect and go through all the music and inspiration I received during the different events. I will relate them in different posts, starting today with the World Shakuhachi Festival in London, August 1-4 (which started actually on July 31 with the Opening concert). Continue reading Summer 2018 – WSF London (1)

World Shakuhachi Festival 2018 London

This year, the World Shakuhachi Festival (WSF 2018) will be held in London on 1-4 August, organised by the European Shakuhachi Society (ESS). It’s the first time it will take place in Europa, after Japan, the USA and Australia. I’m very excited to go and take part of this big event. This is my first time at a WSF. There will be shakuhachi players and makers from all around the world, from amateurs and students to top soloists. A lot of different styles will be represented: traditional, folk music (Min’yō), jazz, contemporary, improvisation, and there will be other Japanese instruments (koto, shamisen) as well as Western instruments. Inspiring! We’ll be blowing a lot of sounds 4 days long, during workshops and concerts. A bit overwhelming when you think of it. And quite a challenge for an instrument originally dedicated to meditation, breathing and silence…

Daniel Seisoku Lifermann and myself will be representing the Hijiri School, as our master Fukuda Teruhisa cannot attend the event. It’s the first time that our small school will be officially represented at the WSF, next to the bigger and more famous schools as Kinko-ryū, Kokusai Shakuhachi Kenshukan (KSK) and Tozan-ryū. I’m quite curious to see how it will be perceived. We’ll do our best! Continue reading World Shakuhachi Festival 2018 London

Warm-up Routines

Whether I’m practicing for myself of for a performance, I always start my practice session with a warming-up. I have different routines and I always start with one of them.  I think it’s very important to have a routine to start your practice, something you don’t need to think about, but also something you do regularly and gets you into the concentration needed for your practice. Like a sporter, you need to warm up your muscles and breathing with easy exercises. My students know how much I love long tones and playing long tones with them. Long tones offer a wide range of variations such as dynamics, attacks and sound colours ; you can focus as well on your muscles tensions, body posture and breathing ; you can listen to the silence between the tones and the relationship between tones and silence ; you can also play them to meditate. Like any meditation, it can be short or long. I sometimes spend an hour playing long tones!

When I’m preparing for a performance, I’m more inclined to focus on technical skills that when I’m practicing for myself or for a meditation concert. Here is my routine. Continue reading Warm-up Routines

Playing again at the Bosweg

Since October, I have been playing shakuhachi three times at the Bosweg. I must confess I was a bit nervous the first time after October: would it be so hectic again? But actually, during these three sessions in February, March and May, the patients were very quiet. February was particularly nice, because the nurses were also very enthusiastic. Which was not entirely the case when I went again this week. What happened? Continue reading Playing again at the Bosweg

CD “Japan: Musical Offering” – Fukuda Teruhisa

In January 2018, the new CD of Fukuda Teruhisa has been released. I was waiting for this CD to come out since I heard his concert in November 2015 in Genève (Switzerland) and was totally mesmerised by it. So, of course, this post is not an objective review, but just some personal impressions I’d like to share.

Fukuda Teruhisa is well known for his interpretations of contemporary music. He recorded several CD of it. As for the traditional repertoire, his discography features a solo CD of “Kinko-ryū pieces” and a Sankyoku CD “Music of the Edo period” (trio with koto and shamisen). But this is the first CD where he only plays Koten honkyoku, meaning very old traditional music. Continue reading CD “Japan: Musical Offering” – Fukuda Teruhisa

Practicing daily

It took 7 years between the day I first heard shakuhachi on a CD and my first shakuhachi lesson. And then another 8 years before I could make enough space in my life to consistently practice shakuhachi daily. As a flutist, I was of course already practicing regularly my Western flute, but didn’t have much time left for the shakuhachi. And I can assure you that from the moment I eventually had time to practice shakuhachi (almost) daily, it made a huge difference. I know this is quite obvious, but it really works. It’s true for every single music instrument, but it’s really critical for sound quality and intonation for the shakuhachi. In order to make progress, you need to practice regularly, even for short sessions. The shakuhachi is a flute asking you to make your own mouthpiece with your lips and mouth muscles. This is very subtle work, and if you don’t train regularly, you can’t build up properly the strength and endurance needed, neither the right balance between tension and relaxation. Playing shakuhachi is physical and should engage your entire body, like sport.
Maybe this sounds quite demanding, but I’ve seen many people getting disappointed (or even very frustrated) to discover that the shakuhachi was not “a kind of recorder” with which you can immediately and easily get a sound (don’t get me wrong, playing the recorder properly is also not easy, although the sound production is much more easier).

But sometimes, as shakuhachi is a particularly challenging instrument, you can have the feeling you’re not making much progress and it can be difficult to find motivation to carry on practicing. So here are some tips to help you hopefully to establish a daily routine and stick to it.

Continue reading Practicing daily

Light and shadow

January 2018

After the Christmas holidays, when I went back to the dementia care house where I monthly play shakuhachi for the patients, A. told me that the departments had been closed for almost a month because of the Norovirus. Most of the patients were still weak and laid in bed. We had a relatively short session, nice though. I especially remember playing for P., a cheerful man who used to play piano and loves listening to music. He couldn’t get enough of it. One of the women was also very happy we came. It was as if she remembered me from the previous visit in November because she was immediately more receptive to the music. I find it so touching when the patients, although weak, strengthless or having trouble to control their movements, do their best to express their pleasure with giving me an applaus. I love to see a smile on their faces or in their eyes.

Continue reading Light and shadow

Shakuhachi & Meditation

Happy 2018!

I wish you a healthy, peaceful, musical and happy New Year!

A new year has started, with new challenges and new resolutions. Last year, my good resolutions were to follow 12 zen rules and  apply them to shakuhachi. I kept this in mind throughout the year, and started gradually a more consistent practice of meditation. This leads me to my good resolution of this year: be a better person. I believe that everyone can contribute to make this world better starting with oneself, and I’m trying to improve my share. I have been learning a lot since I’m meditating on a daily basis and it has been deepening my shakuhachi practice. Although I’m still a beginner, I’d like to share with you how meditation helps me to become a better shakuhachi player.

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Continue reading Shakuhachi & Meditation

One year!

I can’t believe it’s already one year I’ve been writing this blog. When I started it, I had no idea I would like it so much. I didn’t have much expectations, just wanted to try and see.  One year later, I’d like to thank all my readers for their support, nice comments, reading, listening. If you like my music and stories, please don’t hesitate to follow me by entering your e-mail address on the website. You’ll receive my posts as soon as they are published. Please also check regularly the pages, I post new music there from time to time.

Keep on reading, I have a little surprise for you today…

Continue reading One year!