Read is here as well:
This blog post is a little early because I am about head out of town for an adventure which will likely mean no wifi for a week or so. But I wouldn't want to disappoint you by making you wait to read about April's Featured Player, so, I thought, better a little early then a little late.
I'm delighted to be able to showcase my friend Bas Nijenhuis as April's Featured Player. Bas lives in the Netherlands and he started to learn to play the shakuhachi around the same time as I did. However, Bas is no stranger to wind instruments given his background with the recorder which was then followed by the saxophone. Bas has a relaxed approach to learning to play the bamboo flute and at the same time his commitment to instrument is clear. We both take Skype lessons with Michael Gould and often share emails and even the occasional Skype 'visit' in order to exchange ideas and impressions of this interesting musical journey. Bas also has been keeping a shakuhachi related blog - please check it out some time if you aren't already a follower.
Here are Bas's responses to the Featured Player's questionnaire:
What was it that drew you to learn to play the shakuhachi?
How I have learned to know about the shakuhachi is actually not a 'romatic' tale. I was watching -and enjoying- the movies Kill Bill and later Kill Bill 2, even though they are very brutal in a way. In the second film Bill is playing an Asian flute outside on a porch. He plays a sideways flute that sound quite esotheric. I looked it up on the internet searching for eastern flute and then came to find and first hear the shakuhachi. There even seemed to be a national organisation (Kaito) about this flute, which surprised and pleased me. I listened a bit more, read and found the international forum. The aspect -wich was stated more then once- that this flute was hard to learn I found mysterious and challenging: I wanted to play is and see if I could do it. After contacting the local organisation about purchasing a Yuu (cheap, but good student shak) I got a letter in return if I was sure I wanted to play this instrument due to its difficulty level. I was! ha ha. I contacted the chairman and he helped me on the way finding a teacher nearby and so it all began, little more then a year ago.
What is one of your favourite shakuhachi pieces and why do you enjoy it so much?
I cannot say I have one favourite shakuhachi piece. I feel I have still very little grasp of what is out there. I hear many songs, some traditional, like Honkyoku, some more jazzy or modern. I find the music of Fukuda Rando quite pleasing. They are straightforward and easy to listen to, maybe due to the western influence in them. More intrinsically rewarding and 'deep' are the Honkyoku. Listening is a start, but playing them and really listening to them makes quite a difference. It will take time and devotion to 'get into' them. I find these songs the most gratifying. Especially the more melodious Honkyoku from the Yokoyama line. Momentarily I keep comming back to Hon Shirabe and play it quite often. So time will tell if there is one piece wich I can call my favourite...
What is the one thing a shakuhachi teacher told you that has always stayed in your mind?
There are several, not just one...The first and most memorable to me is: 'don't worry about sound, just play'. It is about the notion not to worry too much about your playing: just try and do it, even if it isn't perfect; in other words: it will come. I think that gentle spirit is my spirit in playing this wonderfull instrument. One other is in the same line: if it sounds good, it is good. This one is a bit of a double edged sword: it has the same aspect of just play and make it sound nice. One the other hand there is the Japanese traditional heritage of learning to play and which is much more strict in that matter. I am in between: I want to sound good, but also want to honour the tradition. So one part of learning this instrument is learning what to play excactly, what to play more freely and what to play as I like it.
If there was only one thing you could share with a beginning player what would it be?
If you really want to learn this instrument: press on (and take lessons!!!) Lessons are most valuable especially from the start. And they are helping staying inspired and to keep the fun.
If you aren't sure to learn it: give it up.
Is there anything else you'd like to add to the "Shakuhachi Journey" blog?
No not really. Knowing what it is to have a blog about the same subject, this can be tough. Blogs can range from totally idiosyncratic to totally devoted to 'the readers'. I like the first better. I like the blog to read about your personal experiences with the flute and in that you just do that. What I am secretely hoping is to hear more from you literaly: hear or see you play. That is not about hearing you (Erin) play nice or beatyfull, I just want to hear 'you' play. Well don't feel pressed in anyway to do so anyway. It is your blog: keep it like that and....press on!