Japanese born pianist Hiromi Uehara is one of those unique performers who might not be the greatest musician technically, but supplements her music with a joy that makes her concerts great. Check out this jazzy little ditty, courtesy of oneinchpunch: Read the rest of this entry »
The biwa (琵琶) is a Japanese short-necked fretted lute, and a close variant of the Chinese pipa. The biwa is the chosen instrument of Benten, Goddess of music, eloquence, poetry, and education in Japanese Buddhism.
The biwa derives from a Chinese lute called pipa, which itself derives from a Persian/Middle Eastern lute called barbat (whose modern descendant in Arabic regions is called oud). The biwa reached Japan from China during the Nara Period (710-759 AD), and five instruments from that time are kept in the Shōsōin, the national treasure house of Japan. One of them, a rare, five-stringed gogenbiwa (五玄琵琶), is decorated with Central Asian themes, including a camel. This instrument is literally one of its kind in Asia, being the only one preserved from the period, although similar instruments are manufactured in small numbers today. Wandering biwa players, similar to minstrels, were known as biwa hōshi (琵琶法師).
The playing of the biwa nearly became extinct during the Meiji period as Western music and instruments became popular.
The Tokyo Summer festival is a month long event (July 5 – August 6), with stage performances, exhibitions and concerts in venues all over Tokyo. It was created 22 years ago by pianist Kyoko Edo, composer Maki Ishii and musicologist Takashi Funayama. Each year there is a different theme for the festival. This year, the theme is “Songs of the Earth/Music in the Streets”.
The focus of the concerts is on classical and symphonic music, but it doesn’t end there. There’s a large focus on world music, with performances from Sengalese singer Youssou N’Dour with his group Le Super Etoile de Daker, Iranian classical singer Shahram Nazeri and Japanese singer and shanshin player Kazuhira Takeshita.
There’s also a much anticipated performance from French breakdance outfit Black Blanc Beur who are on their first tour of Japan. So yes! While the Tokyo Summer Festival is a good idea for anyone feeling high-class and cultured, it’s also a great place to check out some great dance, hip hop and world music, plus all the other stage shows and exhibitions.
Links: Tokyo Summer Festival