Japan Foundation Performances Abroad Program: Performances of Contemporary Japanese Music in Central Asia ZATAIVSHIYSYA DRAKON 〈Sleeping Dragon〉

Banner of Contemporary Japanese Music Performances titled ZATAIVSHIYSYA DRAKON

Photo of Samarkand The Japan Foundation is holding concerts of Japanese folk music and contemporary music in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, in Central Asia. Performances will be held at an international music festival in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Performances will also be held in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, and in Ashkhabad in Turkmenistan.

From ancient times, Uzbekistan's city of Samarkand developed as an oasis city, a staging post on journeys. Controlled by a succession of dynasties and peoples, it became a flourishing cultural crossroads, and has been listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO. Samarkand is also home to a rich musical culture born from the interaction between different cultures. Sharq Taronalari, Samarkand's international music festival, has been held every other year since 1997 to maintain the tradition of this superb musical culture and to promote international exchange. Musicians from 50 nations participated in the 7th festival, held in 2009.

The Japanese participants in this year's festival are a unique unit combining folk music and contemporary music. Minyo singer Shigeri Kitsu, highly praised for her original style of singing while accompanying herself on taiko drum and for her powerful vocalization; Kazuki Kunihiro, whose individual, genre-defying compositions and strong stage presence set him apart; and Nobuto Yamanaka, whose outstanding skill and superb musicality in playing the Tsugaru shamisen fascinate listeners, form a three-person ensemble that reinterprets Japan's minyo tradition to create a new folk music. These three weave a richly percussive sound space around the twin axes of Kitsu and Kunihiro's vocals, through which the sound of the shamisen cuts with powerful accents. This simple ensemble structure summons up the primordial power of Japanese music - all the more so because of its very simplicity.

Dates and venues

Date: August 25 (Thurs.) - August 30 (Tues.), 2011
Venue: VⅢ International Music Festival "Sharq Taronalari"
Sponsors: Samarkand International Music Festival, Japan Foundation
Date: September 2 (Fri.) - September 3 (Sat.)
Venue: Watan Concert and Cinema Centre
Sponsors: Japan Foundation, Embassy of Japan in Turkmenistan
Date: September 6 (Tues.)
Venue: Grand Hall, State Conservatory of Uzbekistan
Sponsors: Japan Foundation, Embassy of Japan in Uzbekistan Cooperation: State Conservatory of Uzbekistan


Shigeri Kitsu

Photo of Shigeri Kitsu
Photo by Toshiya Suzuki

From early childhood, Kitsu studied folk song with her father, the minyo shakuhachi performer Chikurei Kitsu, shamisen with Hidetaro Honjo, and taiko drumming with Tsurukimi Yamada, and performed widely on stage and on Japanese traditional folk music programs on radio and television. In 1997, she participated as a solo performer in the 1st Sharq Taronalari Festival in Uzbekistan, playing the taiko drum and singing. Her performance delighted the audience, and she received the Special Prize of Jury. This led to the creation of her unique style of singing while drumming.

In 2002, Kitsu formed a duo called "Tsuru to Kame" with the Tsugaru shamisen master Katsuaki Sawada. The duo has performed throughout Japan, in addition to Southeast Asia, Europe, Russia, Central Asia and other areas. In 2004, Japan's contestants in the synchronized swimming event at the Athens Olympics performed their "awa odori" routine to a soundtrack provided by Tsuru to Kame. The duo released an eponymous CD in 2002, followed by Ai no Kaze - Kita no Kaze in 2003 and Shakkitose in 2007 (all released by the Japan Traditional Cultures Foundation).

Kitsu has also been active in bringing her music into contact with different genres, and has attracted the attention of audiences through collaborations with musicians playing Western styles including Haruomi Hosono, Ryudo Uzaki, Akira Sakata, and Kazumi Watanabe, performing "kobushi jazz" on the music program Daimei no Nai Ongaku-kai, and singing in the incidental music for the drama "Banyuki" performed by the theater company Shinkansen.
On her solo album Japanese Voice (TEOREMA, 2007), Kitsu's unique interpretations bring a fresh appeal to Japanese folk music.

Homepage: http://www.shigeri.jp/index.htm

Kazuki Kunihiro

Photo of Kazuki KunihiroComposer, vocalist and guitarist. Noted for his genre-transcending musicality and strong stage presence. In addition to performing his own compositions in the mixed-genre band Data and the punk band Aujourd'hui il fait beau, Kunihiro also provides compositions to a variety of musicians. Performance tours of countries including Russia, Lithuania, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia undertaken in 2008, in which Kunihiro played his own compositions together with musicians interpreting Japanese music such as the biwa repertoire, and in 2009, when Kunihiro played with musicians performing styles including amami shimauta, have been highly praised. In 2010 and 2011, Kunihiro participated in"Sound Migration" (produced and sponsored by the Japan Foundation), a collaboration between internationally active improvisational musicians, which commenced in Turkey and later traveled around that country, Hungary, Egypt, and Japan, creating excitement in each region visited.

Kunihiro is also active in writing and performing compositions for stage works such as dramas and dance performances. In addition to a series of compositions for the performance group Tokidoki-Jido, he has attracted attention through compositions for Performing Women: Fragments from Greek Tragedy (2007, produced by the Japan Foundation); a collaboration between Iran, India, Uzbekistan and Japan,"Sakura Giminden" (2010), directed by Kazuyoshi Kushida for the Cocoon Kabuki series; and Crime and Punishment (2010, Matsumoto Shimin Geijutsukan), created and staged by Maiko Tanaka.

CDs on which Kunihiro appears include Data Standards, Data Conrock, and Data Invention.

Nobuto Yamanaka

Photo of Nobuto YamanakaBegan studying Tsugaru shamisen from the age of 13. After graduating from junior high school, Yamanaka moved by himself to Hirosaki, where he studied for four years as a live-in student of the late Chisato Yamada, a master of the Tsugaru shamisen. Yamanaka distinguished himself by taking first prize in the C Category of the Tsugaru Shamisen National Competition at the age of 15, first prize in the B Category at the age of 16, and a special prize in the A Category at the age of 19, eventually becoming a teacher of Yamada-style shamisen.

Following this, he returned to Tokyo, and for 16 years has performed concerts, made recordings, and appeared on television as a member of Takio Ito and Takio Band. In addition to performing throughout Japan, Yamanaka has performed overseas on many occasions.

This year, Yamanaka won first prize in the Utazuke Division of the 30th Tsugaru Shamisen National Competition. This victory has established his position as a fully fledged traditional shamisen performer able to perform utazuke (providing a shamisen accompaniment to singing), the most difficult aspect of the art.

In addition to his activities as a solo performer, Yamanaka is currently a part-time instructor in the Japanese Traditional Music program at the Senzoku Gakuen College of Music. His powerful playing, clear and sharp sound, and sensitivity in expressing feelings in music have seen Yamanaka establish a reputation that transcends the shamisen, and he has frequently been involved in performances in different genres, including the musical Ikkyu Renbo, created by Kei Ogura, and Keiko Nakajima's concert series Yume de Aimasho.

Homepage: http://www18.ocn.ne.jp/~nobuto/profile1.html

Planning/Production = Yuki Hata
Sound = Kohei Shinozaki

[Contact Us]

(Ms.) Yoko Kitagawa
Performing Arts Section, Arts and Cultural Department
The Japan Foundation
Tel. 03-5369-6063 Fax. 03-5369-6038 E-mail

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