2009 Leiden Shakuhachi Summer School

August 26, 2009

The 2009 European Shakuhachi Summer School was held in Leiden, Holland from July 22-26. It was organised by the Dutch Shakuhachi Society, Kaito under the leadership of Kees Kort. Leiden is celebrating 400 years of trade relations with Japan with a year-long festival of events including the Shakuhachi Summer School. The performers included Yoshi Kurahashi, Gunnar Linder, Steve Cohn, Vlatislav Matousek, Peter Hill, Tilo Burdock and Kees Kort. I spent a couple of days before the event in crowded Amsterdam and found Lieden a beautiful and peaceful location for a summer school.

The workshops I attended include ‘Takiotoshi no Kyoku’ taught by Gunnar Linder, Yoshio Kurahashi’s interesting interpretation of ‘Mukaiji‘ and Tilo Burdock teaching ‘Soe’ by his teacher Nishimura Koku.

A unique focus of the summer school was improvisation. This was lead by Steve Cohn. His workshops helped everyone listen and interact to the playing of others with a new perspective. Vlastislav Matousek’s compositions also contain an element of improvisation. I was honoured to perform with Vlasislav Matousek and his three daughters in a performance of his composition ‘Roma Tibi‘.

The evening concerts included performances by the teachers of the pieces taught in the workshops. There were also very entertaining performances by some leading Dutch improvisers with Steve Cohn. The summer school also included a number of talks and performances at the Ethnological Museum in Leiden which has an impressive collection of Japanese art and antiquities. The final concert contained a performance by the superb Belgian taiko group ‘Tatake’.

Festival of World Cultures 2009

September 6, 2009

The ‘Festival of World Cultures’ 2009 took place in Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin on August 29 and 30. I was involved in three events. The first was the ‘Mela’ in the Peoples’ Park. It involved a group of musicians from various Asian cultures jamming in a tent. The other musicians included The Bahh Band, a group from Nepal (Hiralal and Ramji Gaine) and various Indian instruments such as mridangam (Koushik Chandrashekar) and sitar (Dara O’Brien). We had no rehearsal but managed to entertain.

The second event was the launch of a collection of haiku by the Irish poet Gabriel Rosenstock. I played a short collection of Irish and Japanese melodies on shakuhachi with Junshi Murakami on Irish harp. Junshi and I were busy again at the Cool Earth Eco Fair in which we played a longer set in the County Hall.

At this event, I was fortunate to met Utsav Lal, the 17-year old “Raga Pianist”. I was invited to join him along with Koushik, Dave Sheridan on Irish flute and Rohan Kapadia on tabla in a performance. It took place in the National Concert Hall, Dublin on September 8. We decided to follow the example of Ravi Shankar and Hozan Yamamoto’s collaboration in a version of ‘Rokudan’.