Honkyoku for beginners
A bit more than a month ago, I released a booklet for beginners made of simplified versions of four short honkyoku. To celebrate the 4th anniversary of this blog on December 13th, I will be giving a ZOOM presentation about one of them, Yamato Choshi. My wish is to explain how to go from the simplified to the full version of this piece. I will be introducing along the Hijiri-Kai style. The presentation will be followed by a Q&A. To register, contact me or scroll down.
A few weeks after I released this booklet, I found this quote, from one of the greatest shakuhachi masters, Yokoyama Katsuya:
“It is important to grasp the main themes and melodies of a piece without getting lost or caught up in the pursuit of various techniques and minor themes.”
“Grasping the main themes and melodies” is exactly what my booklet for beginners is about. I think that it is not always easy to identify them when you are a beginner. The Japanese musical notation is very often seen as challenging. Actually, what is challenging is to notate a honkyoku!
As Yokoyama Sensei writes:
“Honkyoku are alive. It is very difficult to capture them on paper. Honkyoku sheet music is like a snapshot of but one aspect of the piece. It is helpful in giving us an idea of what the song is about, but it cannot come close to describing the totality.”
But what is a honkyoku at the first place? Here is a definition by Yokoyama Sensei:
Continue reading Online Presentation on December 13th
My first debut CD (or single) is released!! It features 3 compositions for solo shakuhachi in which I explore my African roots as well as the relationships between Japanese and African spiritualities. It is now available online on all digital platforms like Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music Deezer, etc.
In the coming months, the music notations will be available as well.
It was a huge work, the musical result of which being only the tip of the iceberg. I was dreaming of recording a CD already for years. Honkyoku? Modern music? Birds? At a point, it became obvious that my first recording should be my own compositions. Who I am. Where I come from. And what I can do with a shakuhachi.
Continue reading African Memories
The International Shakuhachi Festival Prague 2109 (ISFP19) took place one month ago and it was a fantastic event. I had the great honour to be invited by Marek Kimei Matvija to perform and teach and I prepared for this event for months. I put a lot of efforts in my preparations: not only practicing, but also writing teaching materials and composing new pieces. And the festival turned out to be beyond expectations. Continue reading Back from the ISFP 19!
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
In a few days the annual European Shakuhachi Summer School will begin gathering almost 60 shakuhachi aficionados (teachers and participants) together from all over Europe and with Maekawa Kogetsu as an representation of Myōan and Kinpū ryū. And it all happens in the small provincial town Vejle, Denmark – out in the fringes of Europe. Hurray for celebrating shakuhachi all over Europe! See you there! Kiku Day, Chair of the ESS.
I’m very honoured to be invited to this ESS Summer School where I will teach solo and group pieces from our Hijiri-kai school. The venue is a boarding school, which will enable us to blow and spend time together as a group. There will be a lot of different styles represented, traditional and modern music, solo and chamber music, pieces with koto, improvisation and original compositions. It is a great opportunity to listen to a lot of music and meet each other.
Although a big part of the traditional repertoire of shakuhachi consists in solo pieces (honkyoku), blowing together is very important in our school. Fukuda-sensei is tirelessly writing new pieces and arrangements for us when we gather in the Summer Schools organised in France by Daniel Lifermann for La Voie du Bambou. I’m very pleased to share some of his music and the spirit of it this summer in Denmark.
These pieces are meant to be performed by players of all levels, everyone playing according to his capacities. Generally, there isn’t a fixed rhythm except the rhythm of the breath (like in most of the honkyoku music), which allows some fuzziness, like a natural echo or reverberation. Playing together means listening to each other in order to tune in one multiple voice. It’s very good to confront your pitch control with the others’!
Here are the pieces: Continue reading ESS Summer School 2017
In the coming months, I’ll be performing in 5 different projects, which shows the diversity of possibilities of playing shakuhachi:
The Requiem of Karl Jenkins, May 4 in Middelburg (NL), Japanese tales, May 12 in Rotterdam and July 2 in Den Helder (NL), Les Petites Peurs, mixed media installation, May 20 in Rotterdam (NL), Les Cordes en Ballade, classical music festival, July 11 in Bourg-St-Andéol (FR) and The European Shakuhachi Society Summer School, July 27-30 in Vejle (DK).
Continue reading Agenda May-July 2017
Going to Japan was an old dream. Since I met Fukuda Teruhisa Sensei in 2006, I was looking forward to the day I could fly again to Tokyo and study with him there. Life took its time to make this trip possible. Preparing it was already great. Doing it was overwhelming.
I’m back since a few days, after 3 weeks of travel and experiences. I didn’t have time to write and post when I was there. I always need time to reflect on my experiences.
What attracts me most in the shakuhachi, what touches me most beyond its fabulous sound, is the spirituality and the nature. Maybe they are both the same for me. Being in nature is meditating. I sometimes go to the the forest nearby where I live with a head full of thoughts, and I come back with a head full of birds’ songs.
Playing a traditional music which isn’t from your own country is like speaking a foreign language. Going to Japan was going to the source of this language and trying to discover and feel what inspired the people who created this music. Quite a program. In two parts. Tokyo, for the shakuhachi lessons, the culture, the modern life. Hokkaido for the nature. There were both as inspiring.
Continue reading Japan
Last weekend, I gave two workshops about blowing together, which is an important part of our practice in the Hijiri-ryū.
Blowing together means learning to listen to yourself and to the others at the same time. It isn’t always easy to hear your own sound among all the other sounds, but you’ll notice that the sensation of your own vibration will increase, and a new “internal ear” will be activated. It’s a matter of letting go of yourself to join the breath and sound of the others, and find your own voice inside the group.
The shakuhachi is very challenging on this aspect because it is mainly played solo, or with strings instruments (koto / shamisen) which have a more stable intonation. The fluctuations of the shakuhachi and the stability of the strings complement one another. In a group of shakuhachi, the first difficulty when you play with others is the stability of your own sound, and then, your capacity of embouchure control and adaptation to the “common pitch”. The common point of all players is the breath. Blowing together, even if the lengths of breath are different, becomes a way of supporting each other. It asks concentration to find the right balance in the group, but gives so much energy back. And the best reward is the music you can share.
Continue reading Blowing together
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
I grew up in a catholic family and although I’m no believer myself, Christmas has always been for me an important symbol of peace and reconciliation. As a child, my favourite Christmas songs were those of The Poppys, a group of French children singing about love, world peace, and against war. I hadn’t listened to these songs for years, but they still move me while listening to them again so many years later, because there’re performed with all the faith and sincerity of children’ hearts, the very same feelings I had in my own child’s heart.
Continue reading Christmas Spirit