Sounds from Japan
Tsugaru Shamisen and Taiko Drums
• From American rock 'n' roll to romantic guitar like arpeggio, Koji Yamaguchi and Yoshihiko Fueki excited the audience by performing with Japanese traditional musical instruments, shamisen and taiko. The concert “Powerful New Sounds from Japan” took place on April 18 at the Alliance Francaise de Chicago hosted by the Japan America Society of Chicago.
• Speaking no English did not interrupt
the communication between the musicians and audience. Shamisen player
Yamaguchi wittily talked with the audience by using simple words and gestures,
and the audience was induced to clap with the bouncy shamisen sounds.
• Koji Yamaguchi began to learn shamisen from his grandmother when he was five years old and has won national competitions many times. He has collaborated with many musicians in different genres, worked on compositions, taught shamisen, and played as a member of Hayate, which is produced by Kenichi Yoshida of the Yoshida Brothers. Yamaguchi is a young, talented musician who is making a name for himself on the world stage.
• Yoshihiko Fueki started to play taiko drumming when he was 15. He was involved in establishing the professional wadaiko group “Dakanjin” in 2001. Since 2006, Fueki has collaborated with many famous musicians as well as performing solo drumming. He has been active internationally and was invited by Georgetown University in Washington D.C. to teach taiko drumming.
• An Interview with Koji Yamaguchi
• Q: You play shamisen like rock 'n' roll.
• Yamaguchi: I love rock 'n' roll music, so I prefer playing shamisen in a rock 'n' roll pace. I want to make my music go beyond the traditional shamisen music.
• Q: How did you learn shamisen from your grandmother?
• Y: She taught it to me in the traditional
performing way. When I was 12, I experienced Tsugaru shamisen, which was
a much faster tempo, and then I began trying other music genres with shamisen.
But I seriously did it after I became 20. I’ve been trying not only playing
Tsugaru shamisen, but also challenging any other genre including my own
• Q: What kind of music did you listen
• Y: Usually, it comes to me as a phrase, and then I combine each one together and develop a new piece.
• Q: How does your grandmother think
about you to create new music?
• Q: Do many teenagers follow you?
• Y: Many of them don’t know about shamisen music. Other teenagers, who know a little about shamisen, tend to think that shamisen is boring. But my shamisen is easily accepted by them. I’m very glad to hear that they are saying, “Shamisen is cool and interesting.”
• Q: You teach shamisen across Japan.
• Y: Yes. I visit classes once a month.
My home town is Nagoya, so the students in Nagoya come to my home studio.
• Q: You had some concerts in Canada. How were they?
• Y: I enjoyed concerts in Canada. The
audiences were very excited. I think that they were flexible and admissible.
There were many Japanese Canadian people there. I think that the shamisen
sound touched their roots or DNAs.
• Q: How did you meet Mr. Fueki?
• Y: I’ve known him for long time and met him four years ago at an event. Since then, we’ve played together when we have a chance, but not so often.
• Q: Do you always wear Japanese kimono outfit?
• Y: Certainly. Today’s kimono is indigo
dyeing. The color was added after indigo dyeing was done, so it is like
watching cherry blossoms at night.
• Q: Last question. What is your favorite food?
• Y: Tamagoyaki, sweet rolled egg.
• Q: Thank you very much