Category Archives: Spirituality

Playing shakuhachi at funerals

We don’t really like to think about death. Although death is part of life, it is quite taboo in our society and a difficult topic to address. Like it would bring bad luck.

Two and half weeks ago, I gave a shakuhachi presentation in a zen center in Rotterdam (The Netherlands). I gave explanations about the history of the instrument, played a couple of honkyoku, and guided the participants to make their first sounds on the shakuhachi.  We also had a very nice talk about the relationships between shakuhachi and zen meditation. It was a very rich experience for all of us. At a moment, while I was playing, one participant became very emotional. Afterwards, the organiser of the workshop, who is one of my students, told me that when I was playing, he was thinking that shakuhachi would be very appropriate to be played during funerals. “Actually” I answered, “I played a week ago during the funeral of my cousin. I am quite used to play at family funerals. Before, I used to play the flute, but now, playing the shakuhachi adds a spiritual dimension I really appreciate and need myself.”
I also told him about the time I was asked to play for a nature funeral of a total stranger.
During my demonstration at the zen center, the piece the participant became emotional with was Azuma Jishi (Azuma no kyoku). Was supposed to be. I did start playing it, but in the middle of it, as I was playing by heart, I mixed it up with Kumoi Jishi, which was the piece I played for my cousin’s funeral, and couldn’t come back to Azuma Jishi anymore, so I ended up playing Kumoi Jishi.
My student’s comment about thinking of a funeral while I was playing and the participant’s reaction during this piece make me think that there was still a lot of my sadness from the death of my cousin in my shakuhachi play on this day. Continue reading Playing shakuhachi at funerals

Floating souls

Recently, my Italian colleague and friend Fiore Seichiku De Mattia sent me a few links about his current project “Floating Souls” (Anime Fluttuanti), a Music Research Laboratory in Psychiatric Community, Fondazione Emilia Bosis (Bergamo). When music can be a wonderful tool for non-verbal communication and to find ways to connect to people whenever words are barriers, the shakuhachi proves to be a very special music instrument to go even deeper in this connection. Continue reading Floating souls

Hijiri 聖 shakuhachi

I sometimes get questions about the style I play and the school I belong to. As I don’t speak Japanese, I searched for a translation of the term “Hijiri” and here is what I found (Encyclopedia Britannica):

Hijiri, (聖, Japanese: “holy man”), in Japanese religion, a man of great personal magnetism and spiritual power, as distinct from a leader of an institutionalized religion. Historically, hijiri has been used to refer to sages of various traditions, such as the shaman, Shintō mountain ascetic, Taoist magician, or Buddhist reciter. Most characteristically hijiri describes the wandering priest who operates outside the orthodox Buddhist tradition to meet the religious needs of the common people.

Continue reading Hijiri 聖 shakuhachi

A nature funeral

She lies in her bed, in the living-room, close to the window with view on the garden. I’m playing for her, from a distance, very softly, I don’t even see her under the blankets. I don’t know if she can hear me. In a couple of weeks, she will be dead.

I met the family in a sunny afternoon of October, after I received a unusual and touching email. “My wife is dying, she asked for live shakuhachi music to be played at her funeral, is it something we can ask you?”  Continue reading A nature funeral