6 good reasons to learn shakuhachi

6 good reasons to learn shakuhachi

1. It’s a very special instrument: its sounds is unique and will open a new world for you. Playing it makes you feel special.

2. It’s a deep breathing training: breathing is relaxing and essential for your health. It will help you find a quiet moment in your day to breath.

3. It’s a challenging instrument:

  • physically: to get a sound, to keep it, to get the proper pitch.
  • mentally: to go on and don’t give up because it’s more difficult than what you thought. You can do it.
  • energetically: it’s a mirror of your energy level, and it will help you to improve it.
  • spiritually: you’ll have to let go of your self and accept what is given by the flute. Playing the old traditional music is a spiritual act.

4. It’s a very old tradition, which reaches people deeply.

5. It will improve your concentration in your daily life.

6. It will bring peace in your life. And you’ll be able to share this peace with the people around you by playing it for them.

Fukuda Teruhisa in Holland

Since I started to teach shakuhachi in the Netherlands in 2013, it was a dream for me to invite my master Fukuda Teruhisa and his wife Kineya Shiho (shamisen) to come to Holland. When I got my Jun Shihan diploma in January 2013 with the name Seiyu (wisdom/holy kindness), I didn’t consider it as an achievement but as a start. The beginning of a new adventure in a new land, new language, new rules, new habits, and a new personal life.
Since then, it has been a lot of work here in Holland to build up friendships, a professional network and to find my space in my new country in the Japanese cultural world, as a non-Dutch non-Japanese person. I have got some help and I am very thankful for the people who have been trusting and helping me since the beginning. My efforts, practice and professional performances were rewarded by Fukuda sensei giving me a Shihan diploma in November 2015, which has encouraged me to develop my work even more. Sometimes when I feel down, tired or discouraged by the difficulties, I think of what I have received so far and I see it as a precious gift, which gives me energy to go on.

Continue reading Fukuda Teruhisa in Holland

Blue eyes – October 2018

It has been a while I didn’t go to play for the people with dementia. Before the summer, A., who always accompanies me for the visits, was very ill and the visits were cancelled. In July and August, I was busy abroad. It felt great today to be back to the essential of playing music for me: be part of somebody’s normal daily life, outside of concert halls and music festivals.
I can’t explain how priceless this experience is for me. It is not only a musical experience, but also a spiritual one. It feels like applying meditation, particularly compassion and Tonglen practice, to the patients. Their brains don’t function properly anymore and they are not able to meditate, but while listening to the shakuhachi, I hope they find some peace and quietness of the mind. Continue reading Blue eyes – October 2018

Fukuda Teruhisa’s teaching

This summer, Fukuda Teruhisa and his wife Kineya Shiho came to France for a full week of summer school organised by Daniel Seisoku Lifermann and La Voie du Bambou. And following up this week, they came to Rotterdam (The Netherlands), where I teach! I couldn’t be more happy.

I have been following Fukuda Teruhisa’s teaching for more than 12 years now, during 6 intensive weeks in the summer (2006, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2018), various weekends and masterclasses in between in Paris, and a full week of individual lessons in Tokyo in 2017, and it seems to be no end of what I can learn from him. Each summerschool, when we start with Honte Choshi or Tamuke again, I keep on learning new things, it is amazing. Like it is amazing that he is keeping on making new versions of the scores he already gave us, along with new music he arranged or composed, guiding us deeper and deeper in the details and giving us at the same time more and more knowledge, capacity and freedom to make our own choices. He is a true perfectionist and a highly inspiring teacher and performer.  Continue reading Fukuda Teruhisa’s teaching

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

Hélène Seiyu Codjo