Friday, April 25, 2014

Fans of unusual instruments

Today’s coffee: Tanzania

I rushed off to Tokumitsu to write this morning, and now I can’t remember for the life of me what I wanted to write about… so we’ll start with the basics.

Remember how I was whining about the cold last week? Well, it’s amazing what a difference a week can make. Today is, I think, our first day over 20 (that’s 68 F) this year. By Tuesday afternoon, all the snow in the yard had melted, and we’ll probably have daffodils in a few days. I don’t actually mind the winter; my house is cozy and warm. Still, the long winter makes the coming of spring even better!

Yesterday we had some special guests at our house. Our friend Kyle, who wrote the book my dad used to build my shamisen, came over with his friend, Aki and my shamisen teacher, Masahiro. We have known Kyle for a while on Facebook, and this is the second time we’ve met in real life. I don’t usually get to meet other Americans who play shamisen, or even people close to my own age who play shamisen… I think I have a knack for finding unusual instruments.

Masahiro is holding yet-to-be-named shamisen, I'm holding Kanzo, Aki is peeking out from behind Kanzo, and Kyle is holding the Fair Rose (that's the one my dad built). Yeah... I somehow ended up with 3... not that I'm complaining.
We admired each other’s instruments, and then I showed Aki some books of songs I had received along with my shamisen. I had shown these books to lots of people, but Aki was the first to recognize them. She even sang and played some of her favourite songs for me! Japanese minyo (folk music) is fun, expressive, and beautiful, and I’m feeling pretty motivated to learn more! It’s also a challenge for a classically-trained musician like me, since the sheet music is much less precise than I am accustomed to; without a teacher or a recording, I won’t understand at all how to perform and piece of music.

Kyle and Masahiro are two of the main performers in the concert on May 6; it’s an honour to play in the same concert as these guys! I’m going to play and sing 2 Hauta songs. Yesterday I practiced these in front of our guests… and I realized that I really need to practice more in front of people, since I make stupid mistakes that I don’t make when I’m alone. 1 ½ weeks left! Let me know if you want a private concert!

I almost forgot. My newly repaired 121-year-old shamisen now has a name: 鑑三 (Kanzo). He is named after Uchimura Kanzo.

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