Sakai Blues festival


Blues in Sakai

 
There is an annual Blues Festival in The city of Sakai Japan, which is in South Osaka. It is a small city, city not a town. I am not sure how long it has been in effect this show. This is the third year I know of.
However last year was the first I played in it, with the Doc’s Blues band. We played in a little bar in the basement. There are several venues in operation during the two day event. There is a main stage out door, where the “names” play, and there are two other small venues, such as the bar, where we played.
 
 
Last year our first year, was pretty sad, so I thought, rushing to set up, small space, too many people packed in. The Doc did all of the singing, afterward says ohh, I should have had you sing a song. Whatever, I thought. Not really a big deal, he wanted the spot light so, no problem. We did not even know what songs we were doing until just before the show, or he decided once we were on stage. I no longer let that bother me, and just roll with it.
 
This year, we were back. That was a surprise. We had to go play at a Jam session by one of the promotors, but that was easy and did not go badly. So yeah this year we were back. Sorry no good picture. The drummer pressed for a meeting before hand to go over what songs we were to play. I am glad he took the effort, because I am done with trying to have the band look professional, much less sound professional. 
 
We meet for lunch just before the show and talked about what songs, etc. Helpful. Although the songs were picked weeks ago or longer, but the Doc said nothing until the night before. Sigh.

So we roll up, walk up really, to the club after lunch, figure out some setup details and go setup at our time.again a rush, but not so much this time. We went through the songs mostly with out any gliches…mostly. The crowd like when I did Mustang Sally, and some danced. It was a good set. The drummer and I took off right afterwards. We stopped over at the main stage area and checked out the all girl band that as playing. Turns out the leader is the owner of Chicago Rock daughter. Chicago Rock is a club we used to play at. I had spoken with the daughter before and said I wanted to see her band, however never made it back to do so. They were pretty good! After one song I left though, there was the rain happening. Vocals, two guitars, bass, drummer, full sound. Maybe this link will work to a video

 
The next day, Sunday I was back, this time not as a musician, but as a photographer and reporter .
I was going to do an interview of one of the performers. The interview is for a website called BlackTokyo.com. I was interviewed and a podcast was made when we were in Kamakura. The owner is a friend of many years. The person I was interviewing today is pretty well known around this area and is also from Philly. We have met several times and she did a couple of songs with us before. She is good, vegetarian, buddhist, animal rights supporter. I planned on hooking up with her after her show.
 
I arrived just before she went on and so I wandered around. I knew she would be busy before the set. I chatted some with the owner of Chicago Rock, who is a sponsor of the show.
There was also another band whos members I know, at least the leader and sitting in trumpet player, who were playing right after my friend Davina was done. I was not asked but I could tell by how excited he was seeing my business Nikon, that he wanted me to take some pictures. It was during my interview time, but I would make the effort.
 
I got a little bold on where I walked and took pictures, since I knew a sponsor and several of the attendants, knew me. Only once was I asked about having a staff pass. I just said I am with blah blah, and it was dropped. The band were good, it was pretty fun just hanging out doing some shots, then speaking with my friend afterward, in English. That was nice I could relax and talk for a change.
 
My only regret is that my guys do not want to put in the effort to be good enough to play main stage. I am toying more with the idea of my own group more. Even playing in one of the basement venues next year as a start. I need to give more thought to who would play with me. I would love to do some serious funky blues. No one I saw is doing that. Well my friend Davina is close. 
 
Anyway the festival is wrap for this year. I need to give some serious thought to a game musical game plan. Next weekend I am doing a couple of song with the Jazz band folks and the following I will sit in with the mix Jazz group at Snafkin. I was invited today to do play at a show at Tajiri Marina in Jul, for some event. This is where I work. They had a show there on the same day/ night as the blues fest. The friend, the percussionist who set me up with a recent gig for charity invited me to this. Now I need to think of band members. I know a couple of keyboard players and a drummer. I am thinking a female keyboardist who speak some English, and a female drummer, who does not. She is not that good, but she is steady, I like that. I know a couple of female horn players. It maybe a good gimmick, me with a Japanese mostly girl band. I will see how it all flows as time goes on.

The Bass Story – final

 
Waiting…
Good thing, well not really a good thing. I was going to say, good I did not have a gig, but I would have just used the Peavy, no biggie. Anyway. I was told it would be ten days before the bass would be ready. On the tenth day LZ says, no, I said about ten days! Ohhh, 😦
I settled in for more 
 
Waiting…
I figured Tues the guy would call. He called Monday night… LZ explained. It was arranged to expect delivery on Weds. Just a bit more 
 
Waiting…
Finally, it arrived , the guy was a little late but, no biggie after all this waiting…
 
Waiting to find the right Bass, right price
Waiting for the auction to end
Waiting for shipping
Waiting to locate a repair person
Waiting for the seller to contact us
Waiting for the repair
Waiting to play, hear, feel, see.
 
One could not ask for better service. The shop owner picked up , repaired, delivered, my Bass. ( which by the way I need to name)

So I highly recommend Guitars Fact.Kawanaka

 

Oh, yeah, the seller. LZ set him an email. We were not expecting to hear back from him, because other on the comments said they did not. We also figured out later if LZ had made the purchase as a premium member instead of me a free member, then Yahoo Auctions would have gotten involved. Anyway the guy contacted us. He said he was sorry there was a problem, please return it at his cost , to be checked out. Well by now we had sent it off to be repaired. We told him so and the cost. Which was only $65.00 about in Yen. Which was really not a big deal. He did not offer to help with that he just said sorry. We let it go. The full shop work cost 25,920 yen. About 260.00 in US cash. That was for the repair, new strings, resetting factory specs, setting the neck action low but balanced, removing some yukkiness from the back side, re-oiling the body. All in all it cost me 57,920 yen for this Bass. I am pleased! I got the Bass I wanted, and had a little left over to help with the new Shakuhachi. So making the sale of my brother’s Bass, worked out.
 
I spent some time today just playing, feeling, listening to it. This bass was a good choice I am very comfortable playing it, the weight is good, the sound is good, the action is good. This will be my working Bass. It has been a while since I have had the, this in “my Axe” feeling. rather than this is my brother’s Bass. This was made possible via his bass, so it is still sort of live memorial for him.
I have a couple of things upcoming with the Doc’s Blues band. I have not played with him since the thing in Kobe.
Last year we did a blues festival and were asked back this year. I agreed. It is alway good to play. Better knowing what to expect, which is nothing, just roll with whatever, makes it simple and almost fun. So I will get to go live with the new Bass..Yoshiko? hmmmm, maybe, It was made in Japan, one of the last.
My string section is finished now. Some people have a large collection of Basses and or guitars. Not my style. What I have now is all I need or want. I still have my brother’s four string Bass as a back up. Which I have put a way in its case. So it has been a little weird-looking at an empty Bass rack. It has been a small reminder of the void and waiting for completion …
Now I am looking to Jam, feel it, and think… it’s Alive!!!.
 
 
 
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The Bass Story / prt 2


It is all about the money…a Bass story, part 2

 
When I last left off, the Bass was off to the hospital…
 
I had did a quick look see for places nearby to take the bass. Of course my search was limited by doing it in English. I gave LZ the short list. She had something to say about it.  I suggested she look in Japanese. A short while later she had found a shop. They did not do sellijg of musical instruments they only did repiars and customizing. They were somewhat close. 
Yea, call them I said. She spoke with the shop person, it was arranged that he would take a look at the Bass. The part that floored me was he would come and pick it up…at no charge! I was floored. Never happen in the states! As it turns out this shop was not nearby a train station and up in the hills. Doing the pickup was part of there service when needed. He would get the Bass , check it out, and advise me of the repairs and cost. I could have the work done or not, my freedom, no work, no charge! Dayammmm! He made arrangements to leave right away to come pick up the Bass so he could speak Japanese with LZ for details. As she was going out soon , he would leave right away! 45 min later he arrived.
 
The guy came by and did a quick check of the Bass. We talked a bit, him mostly to LZ since he did not speak English. They talked about the bass and about how I hot it from Yahoo Auction. Sometime he says they are good. The private people are mostly good. But there are companies on there who one needs to watch out for. After LZ had done some research she found out some of the bad comments from some customers. Not all but enough had I known I would not have purchased. We learned. Anyway it was arranged what I needed. A few hours later she received the eMail.
 
The Bass can be fixed early fairly cheap. Some small parts should be replaced, a bit of rewiring, and did I want New strings anyway, also they would setup and balance everything and check and ad just. Basically refurbish the Bass for just under 30000 yen. I said go for it! This included doing some work on the body I asked about. It was just under half of the cost of the Bass, but made it almost new again. I was planning that much as my ceiling anyway so it worked out. A like new Bass and a little cash for the Shakuhachi kitty.

So I am still using eBay in the states. They have been really helpful for things I need. The nice thing about them is they have a company policy to get involved with a transaction if they is a problem, and the customers is getting screwed. This Yahoo Auction here in Japan does not. Once the sale is made you are on your own. You can leave a bad rating but they will do nothing for getting you a refund. 
 
The person who purchased my Bass was very happy and left a good mark for LZ . We will leave a very bad one for the seller of the one I purchased. LZ was saying I should just accept the bad deal and buy a brand new one. I said no way will I just waste the money spent from my brother Bass. The body is mostly good, the electronic are bad they can be replaced.
 
All in all I am not saving a great deal of money, but some is better than none. This will most likely be my last Bass purchase…
 
Sometimes I look at my instruments and wonder who will get this when I am gone? I am here alone in Japan. Or when it comes time for the old folks home what will I take? Not really morbid thoughts. Reality. Dealing with the sale of my brother’s Bass brings back thoughts of me having to clear his apartment after his passing. Some of his stuff carries on through me. Mine will be the end of the line. I left my grandfather’s violin with my first son before I left. I took my first formal music lesson on that. I did not want it just lost in Japan…or on the boat! Maybe I pass down one or two of my Kung Fu swords. Yeah at least even through none of the kids do Kung Fu, the swords make great wall displays.
 
I digress…
 
So now my working instrumentation for Japan is complete. Thanks to the passing of my mother and brother. That is kind of weird, but truthful. I have to be grateful to them.
 srt805dxcn
…to be coniuned

It is all about the money…a Bass story


It is all about the money…

 
I learned something the other day. I did not go into the lesson thinking about an economic lesson but music.
 
For a long time I have been thinking about getting rid of my second Bass. On and off I play it. I had recently decided to play it more and adapt myself to it. It is a 6 string bass, made in the US. That is sort of rare since most of that work was, is done elsewhere now. Use to be Japan, then changed to someplace cheaper, then someplace cheaper than that…So Made in the USA has some value on a resale.
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This bass belonged to my youngest brother. He was a musician as well. He even played pro for a while, with a group called the Bus Boys. They got big when Eddy Murphy did a movie with them in it, called 48 hrs.
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Then he hit hard times. He also did graphic design as did I . We were sort of like the mirror image of each other, sort of. He hit upon hard times, and passed away from a medical condition, no money for meds. I was the one who took care of collecting his stuff. He had a 4 String Peavey and a 6 String. I got the 4 string but noticed the 6 string one was missing. I found out he had pawned it. A short while after I gather his things, I got received a forwarded mail from the pawn shop. I contacted them and collected the Bass from a Pawn shop in LA. A beauty, not what I would have picked, but very nice, also heavy and big. Also the neck was too wide for me to be comfortable relaxed playing.
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I have played it as I said here in Japan. Also thought much about selling it and getting a 5 string. Beside being heavy I was not using the bass to its potential. In short more bass than I needed. I still had and used the 4 string, but wanted the deep B to give some bottom at spots. Finally after LZ said she wanted to close the yahoo auction account, I should use it before she does, by the end of the month. Ok, I acted, I figured I would put it up as a test and make sure I had a minimum sell price. I was shocked a bit, but not that surprised after a day or less for the minimum it was sold. 
 
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Now I began the serious hunt for a replacement. What had gotten me started again with the sell thought was seeing a bass in the music store, that looked sweet! The next few days were spent researching, thinking, what did I need, not just want, my plans, taste, age. I was ready to buy something from the states, but after much much much more research I came back to the bass model I saw in the store. I also found I had more of a selection buying used in Japan, as well as saving money. It was settled, I found a good bass, for a great price. I saved enough to help put money on the new Shakuhachi I plan for this spring. 
 
So I feel my brother would be ok with my choice to sell his second bass. He had already done so sort of. I saved it and it got to be played in Japan. Now I will still continuing to play Bass, but also invest in another quality musical instrument. Beside I still have his main bass. Not that he really cares, but it is just the sentimental thought process of humans. Not I have the working setup I want and need for here. Now to just make the music…yosh.
 
So ??? what was the lesson you ask… I found that even in Japan they use the made “country” as a selling point, in some cases. I saw several Japanese basses say, made in Korea. The new bass I saw in the store was made in Indonesia. Some ads for basses said made in Korea, then I saw some that said made in Japan. Those where the considered the best quality, Japan then Korea…
 
Interesting ne! How every country changes their labor to a smaller ranked country to save money. Maybe one day made in China will have the “gold standard”. Things change as the world turns, but it all comes back around.
 
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 Well, my new bass, arrived today. Earlier than I expected! Not a bad looking bass. however, frack me!!! it does not work!!!. Plug it in nothing! Well, the neck is good, and the action feels good along with the weight! The finish is rough as I saw, but the bummer is it does not work. I can refinish the body, not a biggie.
I had considered buying a so-so bass and upgrading the electronics. I guess I have no choice now. LZ says there is no return on this. She wrote the seller anyway, because it was not stated it did not work. and will leave them a BAD rating. Even in Japan there are crooks on-line!! So another lesson…2-for-1. Great, now I am depressed after all that effort to find a good bass and deal!! Sigh! Guess I will go have an adult something for the head and chill! I will find a repair later…tomorrow ! Grrrrrrrrr. 😦
*next day*
Off to the repair shop today…to be con’t…
 
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Things change…

1960s – As a youth I spent time with my Grandfather, in Virginia. There was a “white high school” and a ” colored high school”, a party line telephone. We had no central heating. Gramps wore “long johns”. I thought dang seriously old Man’s style. It was part of my ” chores’ to get the house heated in the mornings. We had wood stove and kerosene heaters. I would have to walk across the yard to our gas station, open the shop and get the oil container filled up, the back to the house to start the fires …

oil
2017. I can speak with someone on the other side of the world on my phone that I carry in my pocket, there has been a “colored” President, now a new one who is backed by the KKK, we have no central heating in Japan, I am still filling the kerosene cans, and starting the fire,…
The difference… I wear the “long johns”

Akimashite Omedetou – 2017

 

Akimashite Omedetou – 2017

 
…And we are off on a new adventure. It will be an interesting time ahead. I am not going to even go into the political stuff. It is way too much and like poopers, everyone has an opinion. Like poopers, some are pretty crappy.
 
As for me…sigh. 
 
The student that I thought was going to be fairly dedicated, quit. He said he was going to just do some basic exercises. I do not understand, what it is with people they want , well they say they want to learn something, but then find out, yes one does have to practice. They quit. Art any art does not just happen, there is no Matrix like pill you can take and suddenly you know Kung Fu, Karate, Kyudo, play an instrument, paint, dance whatever. Yeah, life happens but you deal with it and find a pace to study, practice that you can work with and keep on keeping on. 
Then there are the people who sign up to stuff, or even to get info, but do not respond to questions, like, what are your goals in doing this? I am tired and a bit depressed, I will get over it. No matter, I will retain my practice for me as always and not concern myself about passing on any knowledge. It does make me feel I am letting down my Shifu though, but I am sure he understands and has most likely been there. It if is meant to be more, it will be.
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My Kyudo practice status does not help my mood. I thought I was improving, but my last few days of shooting went down hill again. I will not give up, I will not even think of it. However I am developing an attitude of acceptance, this maybe as far as I can go and just shoot to shoot. No thought of Shinsa, pass or fail, just better my form and shoot. That being my only goal, perfection of form. Hit no hit, no matter. Sort of like doing Zazen.
The goal is the journey not the destination sort of thing. It is said when you sit and meditate and your goal is to be enlightened, you move further away from it. Sit, meditate just because you can, not to gain anything. Perfect one’s form, back straight, breath, slow smooth and deep, non-abiding awareness of mind, no goals, no attachments, perhaps other than just sitting, connecting to all that is. Still that in itself is a goal, no?
There are times when meditating, that one disconnects and yet connects to the source. It is the briefest of moments, because when it happens and one because aware of it and thinks, this is it, you disconnect and it is no longer there!

Yet, I see people shoot and hit and hit and hit. However when one just focuses on the hit and do it, they are classified as target whores. They are not just letting it happen, they are focus on making it happen. One has to focus on not focusing to make it happen…headache come from analyzing that thought too much. Still, it is frustrating knowing I shot better before, years before now, yet now after all this training and effort, my shooting sucks. I am walking the “plateau”

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I did the annual 108 arrow shoot at my home dojo. It was interesting… again. I go through sections of the shoot with a different mind-set. Not on purpose, but it just happens. I observe. Starting with attention to every detail. Focus trying to improve my form, because working with the makiwara is all about one’s form not hitting.

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Then counting and shooting to get it done then back to focus on detail, mindfulness, a return to purpose, not just to shoot. It is over all quite the learn experience. Touching on the spiritual meaning of doing it. A stand-on for the 108 strikes of the bell at the Buddhist temple for the 108 “sins”, distractions. However done with arrows instead of a gong.

Shakuhachi, there seems to be a couple of ways to approach playing. Perfection of a sound, a note, the melody, as music does not matter. It is a spiritual tool. Perfection of a musical piece, the musician way. The expression of the song, the melody. Another, the use of the breath. The flute is a tool to controlling the breath, the variables, benefits, associated with that. Sound does not matter, melody does not matter, only the breath, the source of life matters.

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The Shakuhachi is a tool for controlling, developing that. The breath is our connection to the universe. We live because of our breath. God breathed life into the clay and gave us being, it is said. There is yet another side, that of the sound, the music being an offering. This was mentioned to me by the Komuso in Nara. I spoke to him of doing my yearly pilgrimage to some Komuso Zen temple and was told, there os one in Kyoto. I could visit the ground, I could not enter without a teacher, permission, a pass from the teacher something like that. However I could sit in the garden and play, make a “musical offering”. I had that “sense” when I visited the temple in Wakayama last year, and played at the hall entrance, but I did not put it into a named thought of making an offering. Giving something of myself, my breath in to sound as an offering to the Source, to Buddha. Not Buddha as a “god”. But Buddha as the Spirit of life. We do not worship Buddha as a God in Zen. Buddha is an enlighten being, an awaken soul, Buddha is us , we are Buddha, Buddha is everything, yet nothing. Form and formlessness.

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I am not sure what I am doing these days and sort of frustrated, sort of depressed, sort of goal-less with a sense of time fading away, being on a fruitless journey. The Journey is the fruit and that is all there is until the end? I guess. I do not have that many years left, to figure, work, achieve, what? Maybe 15-20 if lucky or unlucky depend on one’s view-point. WWW 3 happens, the world in left a bed of ash, poison and radiation, doubtful if surviving would be considered lucky.  
 
“The purpose of life is service to others”. Nice thought. I thought I had found my way to do that, several times. I had more of a plan, a dream before coming to Japan. However the path keeps dissolving, and the dream fades away with the tide of life. So it must not be the “right” path. According to the 8 fold Buddhist path, to lessen/reduce suffering, one needs the ” right” job. Easy to say, difficult to do. There is no one “right” for everyone. With limited language skills voluntary work is limited as well. I had thought of free meditation, or Tai Chi classes, those skills I can share. Yet people put little value on things that are free. Perhaps the answer lies with being a faceless Kumoso giving pleasure via the sounds of the Shakuhachi, sharing my life force for donations, which in turn would be given to charity. A faceless service to those who suffer and giving some value to my appointment as a priest and talent as a musician. Well the quest continues, as does the New Year. All I can really do is continue to step, train and keep my heart, mind, spirit open for guidance. That is all any of us can do really. Strive to improve, to take another step, stay linked to the Universe, stay healthy to take that next step and be ready for whatever is on the path.
Happy New Year! Strap in for the ride. May we all do better. _/|\_
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TnT

 

This n that, that n this – Dec,

 
Wow, 2016 is almost over. Kind of scary if I think too much about it…”time waits for no one”. 
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I have not said much about music world these days, not much happening. I have not been with the Doc’s Blues “band”. He is really into the “OverHeat club” me not so much, not at all in fact to be honest. I have said why so I will not repeat. Another reason is the Doc does not want to practice, he just wants to get high and have fun, not a drop of concern about how we sound. lets just have a good time is his only thought. He has admitted he is does not have a professional attitude…sigh. He is a Doc, he has never paid musical dues. Oh well.
 
Anyway speaking of music The Jazz band had an end of the year session on Christmas night. I went by and did a couple of songs. It has been several months since I have played there. They are nice folks. Everyone that knew me seemed pleased I was there. I got applause just walking in the door from those who knew me. The people who did not, seemed taken aback, by the attention, to some gaijin showing up and getting a hand just walking in the door. Kind of funny seeing some of the expressions. I just did a couple of songs in the blues realm, since that is where I am comfortable with no rehearsal and unknown players.
 
 
It worked out mostly well. I did one song at the piano and one song on the bass. Both went mostly well. The one on the Bass , “merry Christmas baby” I thought was fitting for a Christmas night. The ending was bad, as was one part in the middle. Which I expected. These folks are good players, but they lack “feel” for just playing from the gut and following. However their technical skills are good. If I had everything written out they would follow well. I did not, I gave them a basic cord chart and just let them do their best. While I kept it simple.
 
 
Anyway it was fun, and everyone seemed to like it.
 
One nice thing about this venue, is they have food. We pay 1,000 yen, to use the club. With that we get one free drink, and a small buffet.
I am always told what is ok, for me to eat (non- meat).
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There was a surprise cake this time for the Christmas party. I went to the table to get a slice, but as I was there near, it was being chopped away. There was only two pieces left as I got up to plate. I gave my spot away, I did not want to take the last piece or get there as the last piece was given away. I sat back down. Surprise…The manager came over a few minutes later and gave me a slice from another cake they had stashed in the back. Way cool of him. He had before all this came over and gave me some type of sea food in a shell. He said, “but you eat seafood right’? I said …er…thanks but no!
It looked like a giant great snail!! I passed. I thought about what my Abbot had said about as a priest I am not suppose to refuse gifts. Hmm. Well sorry, I was not going there with that “thing”, it looked gross. If I was starving yeah, but since I was not…passed!
So that was my Christmas night.
 
Christmas day, at least the afternoon, I taught my Tai Chi student. Some practice time for me before-hand then class for him. 
 
 
Finally a student who seems serious. He is struggling and finding out it is not as easy as he thought. So far I am just having him do basic training. Stretching, Chi Gong, sitting meditation, stances, Tai Chi walk. He is not bad, but he is not good either. He wanted to do Shaolin Kung Fu. I suggest he train Tai Chi instead. At his age starting Shaolin will be difficult. He is in it for health, I steered him to TaiChi. Even there I do a fair about of external style training, stances, kicks, etc. It is not a YMCA- new age type training I have my Tai Chi students do. They train as a Martial Art with health benefits.
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He needs work ( so do we all), however his attitude is good. Slow and steady he will do ok. I am not rushing him nor do I have reason or plan to do so. I see his pace for understanding and doing and will work within that.
 
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Christmas Eve, I spent some of it at the Kyudojo. It was not crowded, but not empty either. A few of the regulars were there for a while. I mostly just work. On my form. There was one of my Sempai-Sensei there who gave me a few pointers. The main one was I was not lined up properly with the mato when shooting. Another thing I made a point of doing was focusing on the center of the mato, not just the mato and the yumi placement. Once I did that, my hit rate went up! I will be keeping that in mind again from now forward. I had not been doing that for a while, putting to much thought into aiming the Yumi. The next few weeks will tell how much I improve. I have to sign up for the Shinsa mid Feb. I am determined to make Yon-dan next year! It will not change any thing, except my pride in myself. Sometimes that is enough, to have a confidence boost.
I have a hope though as a sideline though. I want to visit the Kyudojo in Kamakura. I heard they will not let the general public in to shoot. I am hopeful as a Yon-dan and a Chan priest from their sect Rinzai ( I think they are ), the head person or managing person will let me shoot. That is my hope. however first I have to make Yon-dan, because at Yon-dan you are taken serious as a Kyudoka.
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Shakuhachi wise, I have a new goal for next year. I had planed on another yearly pilgrimage to a Zen temple. However, I will change-up some this year, I was given a basic Komuso song to learn and an offer for instructions. Once I learn this I can go out “begging” with my acquaintance, the Komuso monk from Nara as an apprentice. I had heard it was a life changing experience for the acquaintance who offered me the lesson, to go out begging as a Komuso. So, that will be my pilgrimage and challenge this year, …er. Next Year. Go public playing and visit the Kyoto Zen temple.

 

LZ has a job doing hotel reviews. Sometimes they are very fancy places. She has been taking me along on the more interesting ones.

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I have not been writing/saying much about them. Mostly for me , unless there is some place nearby of interest, I just chill in the hotel and practice Shakuhachi.
LZ has mentioned that I can write and get paid for an article from some publisher dealing with the foreign readers.
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I do not consider myself a writer, even though I am doing this poor blog. However, I will start thinking along those lines, nothing to lose. So look for some small travel reviews upcoming on this blog. It is something we are doing as part of life in Japan and the Blasian experience.

吹禅 – Sound bites


Sound bites…

 
As far back as I can remember, I have never had a new musical instrument. New as in brand new, not pre-owned. I always purchased used stuff, I never had the money to do otherwise. I was into recycling, and used stuff way before it was fashionable and “in”. Loved pawn shops, back in the day. Hard to find now…and there is eBay. But Yeah, I have been before my time on several things, that is how I roll, sort of weird, on my own beat and sometimes ahead of even myself. 🙂
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Ok re-reading this, I recall my acoustic guitar was purchased new. I was starting a solo career and needed a good “axe”. Oh well, but the general point of this is the same, so read on…
 
I was close to buying a new Shakuhachi when I first started lessons. Hmmm , now thinking on it I did purchase, two brand new Shakuhachi’s before I took lessons. However they were El Cheapo brand. Not really considered instruments by my Sensei. He gave me a plastic one to practice with rather than use mine. So that pretty much says it all, ne!
Ok, I digress…
Hmmm, oh yeah, so I was going to painfully buy a new Shakuhachi. Recommended maker is called by my Sensei one of the top makers in Japan, if not the top. I was somewhat resigned to making this purchase. I was expecting to shell out $1,000 about for a cheap student model from this maker. Now $1,000 is not really off base for a good instrument, you pay in that range for a Yumi. However was not expecting to pay that for a student model to start with…
Handmade is expensive, for a reason. It is just that much harder when you do not have money to shell out for something that is not going to make you money back, like a tool for work.
 
Well as it turns out I happened across a Shakuhachi in the recycled shop here. I took a chance and purchased it. I figured it would be better than the Plastic I was using, and I could return, my Kyudo Sempai’s bamboo Shakuhachi. So I purchased this Shakuhachi.
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As it turns out sensei had heard of the maker, when I showed him the flute. He said it was a shockingly good buy. New it would have been in the same price range as what I planned on buying, but this was older, a $1,000 old money is worth less now. Or something like that. Hmmm If it cost $1000 then it would cost, $2,000 now. Ok I think that is it…whatever Still, it is a student level model, but good quality one. So yeah, I scored with my Flute! Yatta!
 
However…
 
What I have learned is, this is a good Shakuhachi I have now for playing solo or with traditional instruments. It is tuned to the “old” scale. It is difficult to play with modern instruments, the player (mostly) and the shakuhachi have to be of higher skill than me. After some consulting with my Sensei, a Shakuhachi tuned to modern scale would be more versatile for what I have in mind musically, he says. A standard level not student or Pro. The old traditional Shakuhachi pieces, the recycled store Shakuhachi is fine., great in fact. It is a good instrument and playing traditional songs no problem…until I achieve more discerning ear and want to change up.
 
When I was a kid, when I wanted something musical, or most things really, as the eldest, I had to work, save, something to raise the money. My youngest brother, also turned musician, with me being long gone, and one less mouth to feed, my mother helped him buy his equipment. He always had better gear than me. When he passed away, I got his music gear. Two of his Basses I still have and use. One I am planing on selling to purchase a replacement. The other I will keep and use until, I can not.
So, yeah the point is here that my brother got help starting with his music career, I did not and always, mostly had recycled stuff.
 
My mother passed away recently. I was surprised to learn I was to get a small bit of money. I am not wired to be just crazy with money or wasteful. I set aside a small amount to upgrade some music stuff I have had for years, or /and wanted. The rest went into the house fund, (food, bills, living stuff) and bit for LZ to use as she wanted. I got a couple of things I wanted, portable, battery operated, Bass amp. I have wanted one like this for a while. I purchased a small plug-in a couple of years back, but this one is way cool and versatile. I also picked up a thing called the “beat buddy” . Basically a programmable electronic drummer. I am thinking, solo act or near solo again. Maybe some street musician stuff with shakuhachi and drums, and a bass track.
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Ok, so yeah, I got “deals” as in floor model (used), on this stuff. There was still a little money left over, on my budget. I am thinking after tossing around the new bass, or new keyboard idea. Shakuhachi came to the forefront, maybe add a little more to that fund…make an investment in quality. You do not lose when you go with quality…people or things.
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A brand new Shakuhachi, made by one of the top makers in Japan, named Kono Gyokusui. More likely someone who is a family member carrying on the family business.

I was given, before a DVD of the family making Shakuhachis. A documentary. It is only in Japanese. ONe of the people who came to visit the ‘Old Man” and get or test a flute was some famous Player. I have seen his pictures. I can not place the name right now. Anyway, the Otosan has 2 sons he trained and they all work together at a home shop.

Hmmmm, an investment in myself…A final departing gift from my Mum…

 

My Sensei says he is sure I can find what I need in the 2,000 range and he will help me select one from his friend the Master Builder. ( I saw one sold on ebay for $2500.00 . An old one that had been repaired.)
I can choose the one I like, no pressure to buy, if not a selection on hand, come again to see the next batch. Hmmmm. More than I had planned on spending.
 
I checked with a few makers in the states, from them it will cost about 500.00 less, maybe. Not really much of a saving considering the fine points I get from the going local purchase, more so from a personal friend introduction. Writing this down help me clarify the comparison, the real value in shopping local.
 
….
 
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I have been given a recital date for my student performance on the Shakuhachi. My sensei has a combination show planned with another Sensei who teaches the Koto. The show and closed luncheon party will be in Feb. 
The next month will be my 2 year anniversary of Shakuhachi study. I have plans to go another pilgrimage to a Zen Komuso temple. It is also about this time my Sensei plans on taking me to see the Shakuhachi maker. This is not just a quick let’s go to the shop and buy a Shakuhachi thing. This takes time to arrange and to buy. Custom/semi-custom made in the States, would take about six months to make, and I would not get to hear it, feel it, connect. Sort of mail order brideish, but with a guarantee.
Thinking more on it now, it will be not just a store purchase, but an experience into the old school way of shopping from a craftsman. I was told, several would be selected for me to try based on my criterion. Then my Wife, my Sensei, and myself would go to the home/shop have tea and play/listen to them all then choose, or not. There was always new ones being made. There was no rush , no pressure.
 
 

Sept Update – the good, bad -N- ugly

Update – the good , bad and ugly

It is easy to lose track of posts and, time, what blogs, and the like. I know more people are interested in my Kyudo challenges, oh well. Life is not all about Kyudo, nor about posting for unknown, unheard folks. A lot has been going on recently not all pleasant, yin /yang, that is the way of life. Perhaps if I wrote more about funny stuff or tragic stuff I would have more readers. People like to hear about another’s troubles so theirs does not seem so bad, or like to hear funny stuff to forget their own issues. Right now, just babbling to get started, so you can ignore the above. Just out loud thinking.

 
Good, 
I had a couple of good musical events. One was for the Snafkin cafe Sakura beach festival. I do not know why it is called Sakura, when this is summer. Anyway, it was fun. I almost did not make it. I said I would go then, I had to back out, then I could go again. My favorite people to play with backed me up. Alas no drums though. I asked one drummer that was there who played with a gospel group to sit in with me, he punked out. Wimp. So I had my favorite Sax player, keyboard player and a guitarist. No rehearsal we just went for it.
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Considering all, it turned out ok. I was able to get some video footage.

 

The other was a Show in Kobe, with the blues band. This had been a year in the planning. It was the drummer’s high school reunion. There was talk of rehearsal but it never happened for various reasons, which i will not go into. One of which the “Doc” did not like the rehearsal studio, he just wanted to play at the Overheat club as a rehearsal. I could not make it, another story…bottom of page.
 
Also a week before this show, the brother of the Doc’s blues band drummer, his twin and also a drummer, asked me to fill in for his Bass player. He was short members. They are a Jazz group. His keyboard player was also going to be out. I said ok. There was also a another keyboard player going to sit in. A friend of theirs who was just in town visiting. A skilled player, who had not played in a while. Also from the same school.
 
I was also asked to learn another song, by Bob Dylan just in case. Then another song by the old band “Chicago”. So i have 5 songs to learn in a week. Really less because I had to go do a boat delivery from hell for 3-4 days. More on that later.
 
So yeah, I got the songs pretty fast, they were fairly simple. Show night was long. I got there around three in the afternoon, did rehearsals with both bands, had a short break then played. I left around 9:30. The blues band was first up for me to play with. It was decided by the Doc and the drummer I would carry the vocals. Hmm what is the point of calling it the Matsuo Blues Band if I am doing most of the work. I sort of snapped at him when he started to tell me how to do one song dropped on me suddenly, instead of one he was going to do. ” you want to do it that speed, fine, you sing then” My patience is low with that these days. We did ok considering, for the most part no practice. After two songs, the keyboard player joined us for another two songs. Now we sounded good. The best we have ever, to me. I even pulled the stops on my vocals, I felt inspired.
 
Right afterward the Jazz band was up. That was fun fun fun. The keyboard player who continued over from playing with the Blues Band and I hit it off and were in sync. Even when the group messed up and got lost where we were, we pulled it back together like what we did was on purpose and part of the arrangement. That is how it is done, you roll with it.
 
We followed the jazz tunes with a couple of other songs. You got a friend, and I am a Man. It was a nice variety and so nice to get out of just a blues bag. I kind of got the vibe the “doc” was not pleased me being with another group. Oh well.
 
No pictures, from the show, oh well. There is a 15 sec vid, taken by the “doc”…
 

LZ and I got to travel a little bit, we went to a very famous Osen place in Arima. This is part of her writing review jobs. It was just a overnight stay but relaxing. This is from the town near by. I am not big on public Osens, but hte massage chair was the Bomb!
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 The Bad:
My mother passed away last week. I suppose not really a bad thing, she was old and tired and ready to check out. Not really sick per’se memory was mostly gone. She was in her own world when I saw her last. She said her legs hurt most of the time and was not eating. I was expecting it as were my family sooner. I was pleased I made the choice to go when I did to see her and say my goodbyes. What is bad is, some questionable finance handling of her estate. This is not the place to go into that. However it does seem that some property issues can be worked out without it all going to probate court. Within bad there is good, within bad there is good. Within Yin , there is Yang.
 
I have not been getting any Kyudo practice time in these days. Not full none, but very little. A mixed bag of reasons, which do not matter. The next Shinsa is in Nov, i am seriously considering waiting until spring. I can spend the winter more focused.
 
Ugly
 
My spirit was shattered, that is the best way to describe my disappointment at someone who I had thought was my friend and I trusted and respected. I was almost killed, and not so much as even a sorry I mis-judged the weather or thank you for your work. That was the most painful!!
I had a boat delivery assignment, which I wrote about on my sailing blog, so I will not repeat here. If interested you can go there. Both LZ and I were disappointed at events, that took place. Me more so, I was very depressed for several days. Not just from a friendship level, but lost of respect for someone on a Zen master level. I am not fully over it, however slowly my Chan training is kicking in to accept, “it is what it is”, unattached and move on, in more ways than one. Be unattached in the present, mindful of what I am doing, stay centered, be open, for guidance from the Universe, where I need to be, go, do.

A step into the present

 

Since I have returned Home. I have stayed fairly busy, but also resting. It has been can of nice. Not good for our finances but…the Great Spirit provides. I had gotten to do some music since returning. I did an evening at the Overheat club with the Blues Band. It was not as tiring as I thought, I still do not understand what is going on there. Other groups also played, different from before. No matter. No money comes from my pocket other than transportation. The rest to me is practice/ training. The evening was ok. We did not play the whole time,
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I also got to play with some others, less the “Doc” and his style so that was nice.
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I also got to play keyboards a little. I was going to play just on my song I was asked to sing. Turns out they did another song first before my song, with me at the piano so I rolled with it. The key to doing something that you can do, but just a little, is to stay in the background as much as possible. People hear a taste of piano tunes, but nothing they can really “attach” to. Sort of like doing push hand in TaiJi. There but not there. So yeah that how I covered myself, not knowing the song. 
Then I got to play a song. It started very very rough. It took them a while to find the groove. The drummer just stopped. Later listening to the recording he started some light tapping or some thing, in the background. There but, not there. Not good for a drummer, and this was a Slow Blues. Anyway,.. Rolled with it. The guitarist and the bassist also could not get a lock. So I just played for myself.
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After a while they caught on. I was surprised later listening to the recording, once everything into sync it was fairly good. It could have been great if we had all played together on this song before hand, as these guys needed some guidance. Still it was fun, most of the night.
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The next just happened to come up. The Snafkin owner asked if I would do a couple of song in an upcoming park show. Ok I said. This was to be mostly with the same members as the prior concert. Cool I thought! There will be some adds and menses as far as people but still. Good, the keyboard player as before and my favorite sax player. I think I heard some thing bout a guitar, and I will ask the Shami player again. It is a interesting sound combo. The conga player can not make it, I am not sure about a drummer. None of which are a big deal for a free park community concert. So just fun and practice.
 
Anyway I digress I was asked shortly after the first contact to stop by the coffee house to speak with a couple of what. Thought where the players. So i stop by the cafe on Friday. The only ones there were the owners and the conga player. They all were just practicing some songs. Hmmmm, I thought ok slow night. We talked some, another couple was supposed to come in. A short while later they did. I played some songs with this guy, me on bass, and the conga player. The guy, guitar had written some songs and was doing them, his girl friend also played guitar. She did a couple of songs later. 
We all along with the cafe master at time just did various songs. Some times we just did percussion rhythms, sometimes we did the same but with me on Shamisen, some times with the added flavor of the master on Saxophone. All just fooling around it was fun.
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I was asked by the “guy”, the writer/singer to play with him and his group at another festival type show. Me on bass backing him. Ok I said. Cool I thought, another band, a different sound.
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A couple of the guy, I will call him the Kid since he and especially his girlfriend looked so young. Cute couple. Anyway , yeah the kid’s songs a couple of them I liked. One had a reggae type feel another more a funky rock. It was fun, he liked it , he asked me to play the show.
 
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It was a fun evening, i got a ride home with h conga player. He had sent me a note before about seeing me, but did not reply. It turns out he lives near the boat yard where I work so is nearby. This is good info as I want to use him later in some musical project. He is I found out “Budo brother” he studies Iaido. Kyudo people are rare. So yeah, it was a good night, more fun than I planned on. I did not even bring my instruments, but still got to do some fill ins. I had originally thought to just hang out.

The Force was with me.


next up, The Shaolin Session…UPSA tour