Back to normal – 5 days

4-5 days later, I lost track…

Most of the life in our area is back to normal. The Major quake in Hokkaido did not affect us. Up until today some people still had no water or electric from the Typhoon. Ours came back on as I was going out to band practice the other day. As I had hoped for, wifee was wrong. She said though it was better to expect the worst ie: the longest time. I had a feeling it would be the next day after I went out. My time line of thinking maybe a bit off from these post. No matter. I noticed reader dropped off a lot after I stopped writing about Kyudo. That is more interesting than the real life struggle of a major Typhoon aftermath. Which in our case was minor, I am grateful for that…Amitoufo

There was one death that I know of in the hood from the Typhoon. I found a dead little bat in my bike basket. I felt so sorry for the little thing. I held my first burial as a Priest for it. I buried it in a flower-pot under some roses with a little ceremony.

Silly perhaps, but that is what “Spirit” told me to do. One person on-line said the Universe planned for me to find it and the burial was appropriate. So I am not the only weird one out there.

So now back to the daily stuff of a struggling Artist. rehearsals went well. As did the gigs. Our Friday night show seemed like a small turnout to me. It was raining and we were the only band playing. It did not seem like many people showed up. Those that did seemed to enjoy the show and the feedback was good. We also made some money…Yay! That was encouraging. The band had fun.

Sat was a long music day for me. I am glad it started in the afternoon. I started with the Shakuhachi Society. We had our monthly meeting. No visitors this time, just the regular four. I was shown pictures from a visitor last month. He runs a high end shakuhachi shop in Shanghai! I do mean high end. impressive pictures! After our practice we did not go out to eat as usual, which was fine with me as my time was limited. We eat and drank there at the dojo. It was rather nice and low key. I am thinking it will be the regular way from now on. Which is fine everyone will bring something, like a pot luck afterwards. Healthier overall than all the fried food from the izakaya.

Our Sat night show, to me was a little better as is the drummer. The guitarist is better and we sounded tighter even though have not played together much. The keyboard player and I work together a lot these days. I guess just overall skill level for the group as a whole was more experienced. On the other hand the crowd was way less. We were not the headliners in this case and still the turnout was low. With two bands and a small turnout I heard nothing about getting money. Oh well I was not excepting any. I had a friend show up with her friend, so that was nice. I was hoping some Kyudomates would show up, but nope. Oh well.

 

I did hear we were offered another spot by the club, at first in Nov. However that was not going to work out, so another is in the making. It is too bad this band will not be entered in the Sakai blues festival next year. We did some nice songs, not just straight up blues. I wanted for my songs something different not all the blues band in Japan are doing. They sounded nice I heard part of one from a friends recording. I wish I had recorded them, but spaced out! Oh well perhaps another time and it will be even better. So will band #1 for that matter with more practice. for

and speaking of practice, time to crack down on it for Kyudo…shinsa is coming

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A musical interlude…

 

A musical interlude…and typhoon break

A typhoon just passed. It was the largest they say in 25 yrs! It was intense. It is the first time since I been here that we lost power. I am writing this powerless on the iPad. Good I have some emergency things on hand. More on this later

Kyudo has been fairly intense on my mind with about two-week to go. I do not feel ready. However there is other to life than kyudo Shinsa. I di have an added pleasure moment at Kyudo, an old classmate from Ca came to shoot with me at the Dojo. It was sort of nice to chat a bit about kyudo in English of a change.
I had my first teaching Japanese boating practical exam class. However that does not go here, it is the “by sea” blog. Nothing really interesting about it. 
Then I had the spot at the Snafkin by the Sea concert. This is my third year doing it and the first year since the Snafkin Master pass away. I was not at all nervous about doing it. I knew many of the others performing. I had one of my favorite keyboard players, backing me and a percussionist he recommended. So I would not use my drum machine. I opted to go with a more organic sound. Also using my acoustic Bass rather than the electric. Even though the keyboard was electric, the overall sound was different from my regular “live house” sound.
I had a music plan of three songs. I have been working on this idea of doing Summertime, with the shakuhachi and my friend playing Shamisen. Also I would sing a version in English she would do one in Japanese. We had one practice session, but she did not play shamisen, she wanted to work on the vocal. Sigh… it went well. It sounded as I wanted. My next two songs, just the percussionist, keyboard and me. A small club warm sound, bluzy, and jazzy, with a touch of funk.
Day of the show, there was some talk of rain, but other than being hot it was clear. There was not a lot of people but some, plus folks walking by up and down the beach. It was going to be long day. I was to go on at 12:20, and wait around for the ending to do a group song together at 5:00. Sigh…ok agreed as it was sort of a memorial for the late club master.
I had a fairly large breakfast and did not except to eat again until dinner. There would be no food there I could eat. I took along a small terms bottle with some ice water and a shot or two of Shochu. At the show I added some French Orange soda. I had a pretty good drink to sip on during the day.
The show went pretty good. I was really disappointed my friend did not play shamisen much very little and very soft. I had a feeling when she was ready to not play at all when she thought we did not have enough mics. I know now not to ask he again to play. She I not comfortable. E
Ben th ugh she plays a lot with her group and singing Okinawa songs. I think she feels it is too complex with my style. Anyway I will need to find another player if I want to use that sound live. I can always track It into my looper myself for solo work.
The song we did “Summertime” went pretty good. People liked it. I had trouble playing my Shakuhachi! It was a struggle at times. My mouth was dry, the wind was blowing. The wind can interfere with blowing across the flute. Between the two I missed getting notes out, but, I do not think many , if any could tell sometimes the shakuhachi has a very breathy sound. Also I know how to cover well, and just kelp on going like it is supposed to be that way. I played the vid, someone made of the song, for sensei. He said you did well because you are a musician. He also recommended that I should get a different Shakuhachi for this playing. I was using my traditional one, which is not made for the type of playing I did. 

The other two songs, went better, I was more in my element and warmed up at this point. Here are a couple of links if interested in samples.

Here my train Coming ( full version)

Summertime ( cut )

If you want me to stay ( cut )

Next up this is a busy week. I have two different gigs with two different bands. Really only somewhat different. The keyboard player and I play together in other bands. We are both doing songs we already mostly know. I am trying something a little different with one band, but not that far off from what the band sound is, but still added my sound “mark”. It will be fun. I have practice then week with both bands. This is how professional minded players do, they want to practice and sound good, not just have fun.
Then…I have a week to really focus on Kyudo. I am pretty set on using the Bamboo bow. As for me, I am still not feeling ready. However I will do my best. That is all one can ever do. If it does not work, and get knocked down. Then stand again, and get stronger…yosh!
The typhoon…
It has passéd on as I write this. It sort of feels like a disaster area. People are out on my street, the few that are here, talking. Sirens going off in the back ground. Someone making pubic announcements, which I can not understand. Sort of weird feeling. I see nor hear anyone from my hood in a panic or packing to leaving, so I will just chill. There are no lights, I have some battery-powered lights and a charge on my phone, and a laptop. I will do stuff until dark, practice some then. Watch a movie on the laptop, with a glass of wine then go to bed. Then deal with aftermath tomorrow morning, then maybe go to Kyudo…Amitoufo

Then there were three

Then, there were three

Ok yeah, this not the post about working with the blue collar locals either. Things happen, that will also ” be the bamboo” flow with the wind ! This is though about playing the blues, with the locals, and sometimes it is a labor, so, it is close,


I recently wrote about the last gig, a real gig with the Doc’s band. Overall it went ok, good even depending on one’s view. I receive a FB message from the Doc asking if I would like to play with him at an up coming event at a local live house. This is the Doc’s favorite spot. He hosts a blues night there twice a month. I stopped going because the owners wants his band not only to host, but to play most of the evening, AND pay to get in and pay for their weak drinks. Oh hells no! I have said! So, there is this event on Monday coming three days away from when I was asked. This event has been planned for a while and it was known about again for a while. He chose to ask me three days in advance. I have bitched at him before about this. He asks me, can you play with me on Monday I do not have a band yet. Such n such the keyboard player, I was expecting him but he said he is busy… So there is just, the house drummer and him, I am told.

 
This guy, the Doc, is a local, he has been playing in this area for years, people, know him, musicians know him, he has been playing at this Live house “Overheat” for the last year, as blues host… However he can not get people to play with him…hmmmmm
 

I simply said I pass, enjoy yourself!

 
Now I had been asking myself just the day before, do I want to continue with this guy. I am getting Irked, embarrassed at shows, complaining on blog posts, having negative feelings about the whole un-oneness of the group. Feeling like a turkey at times, do I need this??? My wife says, you should just say you are busy when he asks. Hmmmm. I thought on it…
 
In America there at one time was something called a butterball turkey. Maybe it is till there. Since I stopped eating meat I do not know. This turkey had a little button inserted, so when it was finished cooking and ready, this red bottom would pop out, that was your signal it was ready, done! There is an expression in the States people say when they had enough of something, they say I am done! Or stick a fork in me I am done!
 
This latest thing with the last-minute call, invite to play was my red button, it popped! The straw that broke the camels back some also say. I was done! I sent the Doc a formal resignation notice, thanking him for the pleasant times past, but my attitude and goals for playing was not compatible with his, for his band, and as everything has a time and season, this was mine for officially leaving the group.

The final band shot

 
I got a note from one of the other bands asking if I was available to play at Chicago Rock in Sept. the day after my main other band plays. :-). I said yeah, I am in, let’s do it.
 
Another message from a keyboard player I have done shows with in the past, asked me a few days earlier if I would do a spot at a seaside festival I had played at last year. The wife-owner of Snafkin wanted to know. I played at this event two other times before, last year was with the Snafkin owner before he passed away! I am in I said!
 
My other band asked me if I had a friend to play drums for our gig at Chicago Rock also in Sept. Yes,  I am playing in Sept at Chicago Rock, three times with three different groups. It is not a big fancy club, but it is a known club and a good stepping stone and testing ground.
 
So…Wwow all these people organizing their shows months in advance! What a concept! Professional minded players, are real, it is not just a fantasy in my head.
 
So I am down to three bands and my solo career. I think that is plenty, and a great outlet for that side of my musical ministry and clears out some negative energy. I would prefer just being with one good , working often band, however that does not seems to be Japanese style. At least at this level. I have friends whose bands work “regular”, even there the members play it are more than one band, even when their band is a hot band! So when in Rome…or Japan…roll with it
 
Amitoufo

..

The blue collar post is written, it will post next.

…and the band played on

 

An the band played on

All the drama around here finally stopped. We had earthquakes and floods. All close to home but thankfully not at home. It would have wiped us out! All that I have left is what is in my lil studio. It would have broken me to lose what is left of any dreams or life. However Allah be praised it did not happen.
So yeah the band. This is the Doc’s blues band I am referring to. We have not played together since April the Sakai Blues festival. I got a notice from the doc there was a spot for us to play at some Sri Lanka restaurant in Nara. His girl friend had arranged it. We were to play and get a dinner for our efforts. The Doc was going to drive us there , in his Electric car, so it would not cost me anything ok. I said with some reservations. This is about a two-week or more notice. Ok, I agreed , but I Did not say or ask anything else, as I usually do. I wanted to see what would happen. I was told ( not asked told) to sing a certain song by the Doc at another place I met him at. A gig with my other band. I wrote about that. I said no!
It was a nice drive to the venue. A nice place, sort of a farm, restaurant setup. One would never expect it in the Mtn of Nara. We arrive with no problem, and settle in a bit. The drummer shows up a while later. We setup and get ready to play. Then the Doc says, ok what shall we play? I was not surprised at all!! . I just shrugged and left it on him. He picked a song, me going first, I had planned on this song anyway, o just rolled with it! Just before that the drummer tells him he should speak and intro the band and all. Ok we get started. I am struggling with the tuning of my bass, it is way off. Still we make it through a couple of songs. Then I hear ok, it is your turn to do a song the Doc is talking to me. The Drummer says yes please, we are not looking to good, do something to save us. I think…hmmmmm, again.
The Doc says, oh I heard you do “killing floor” the other day, do that! I say No! He says why not?, I respond irked, because I am NOT doing it, that is why. I dislike being told what to sing by him, I dislike not having a song list agreed on by the band, I dislike waiting until we are on stage to discuss what song to do. I dislike playing with no practice, especially on songs not done before. I chose another song and we went through it. It was not too bad, I am still having issues with my bass tuning!
We do a few more songs, I forced the Doc to choose, sometimes by just starting to play them. His songs. We made it through the set and took a break. For the next show set we setup outside. There were more people by this time, not a great amount, this is a afternoon gig, not a niteclub/livehouse.
I am asked now, not told, what I want to sing, by several people. Ok I do a song, then afterward it was kind of like the band stalled, the Doc was not leading. I started just playing some open songs cords to just jam on, the drummer kept right with me with different timing and beats. This went on for a while, I start something, the others would follow. More like I am leading a Jam session not, running a show. Over all it went well. The people enjoyed it. I found out we had collected some money from “tips” . So it was overall good, with the tip, the food was good, the place was nice, and we got decent pocket money. I was happy…at least with that…the band leader, not so much! I said nothing about his lack of professionalism, it would be pointless, I have been there before. I just need to decide if I want to do this any more. The thing that bugs me, is if one to going to name a band after themselves, they need to have their act together, be a really good player, or singer or businessman, or have great stage presence. He has none of those qualities. I am always called on to sing and save the show. Sometimes feeling like the show monkey the way it is done. He is not a bad guy or a jerk, just not professional in skill or attitude. I understand why as long as he has been playing around Osaka he has no one else that will play with him in ‘his” band.
Anyway this is not a post to rag on him, much but the show report. The place was nice, the mountain side was nice as was the weather after the big storm. There was no trace of it here. The Shi Lanka food was good, it looked like Indian but not as spicy and the taste was a little different. I would eat it again if there was a place nearby. I saw pictures of the Chefs from Shi Lanka an I could see why I was chosen to play the Shi Lanka President on Japan TV before.
No idea when this band will play again or if I will be with them. My other band, the main one, Sieki band will be playing at Chicago Rock in Sept. I have a single jam thing planned with the drummer in Aug also at Chicago Rock sort of a pre-test and low key audition for me.
Next up…”Working blue collar”

Gardening, Rain, SuiZen


Gardening Zen and the rain
My Shifu from Dharma Mtn says everyday life is Zen/Chan, in Kung fu we say everything is training. Gardening as practice is certainly not a new concept, so I am not going there, this is just one moment in time…thoughts, clarity
Growing one’s food no matter on the scale, gives a sense of connection to the world, life cycle without the blood of hunting. It is sort of satisfying the God complex, like ceramics because you are creating something from dirt, but in this case you can eat it, instead of eat with it.
We have had a storm for the last couple of days and will continue at least one more. I am loving it! Off from work, just enjoying the rain and wind from a safe spot. Doing some gardening when the conditions are mild. Like the wind taking a breath. Doing some misc trimming, repotting, feeding, rearranging or simplify admiring the garden, savoring the feeling of the elements, the storm, the earth, growth, warm air, being in Japan, the wind, life, gratitude. With the world so nuts, it Is good to view everything with a sense of gratitude and feel the joy of the retirement moment in gratitude and wonder. Five years in to retirement and still surviving. Not without help, grateful for that. It is a simple life but pleasant. Warm int he winter, cool in the summer, dry all year when sleeping and our belly are full. This is a blessing under normal conditions, to have it be so in a new country and life is a major blessing …Amitoufou
I spent most of the last couple of days, practicing Shakuhachi and working in the “backforty”. This year I really feel the blessing of having this space and see the results of my efforts in the landscaping. Both in the front Zen garden and the Back Forty. Same purpose of growth, different missions. Sort of Yin and Yang, eye and body pleasures. Whatever. The front theme Is the bamboo, a couple of small water ponds, some fragrant plants, a couple of herbs. Gives a sense of peace and simple beauty. I still have the image of how it looked when we first moved in. so different now.
The Backforty is about growing food and herbs. The front was tried a bit for some things, because of the sun, but the bugs overran the things. They seem to be less on the Backforty. Not sure why. More other plants around in front, dirt, ??
I have finally figured out after 5 years what grows well, in what spot, and how much to grow since my use is measured and my yield is small. The main stay is lettus, kale, tomatoes, basil, peppers and few misc herbs. This year has been the most productive. I will try potatoes next year or later this one. It maybe too late, for this year, Unknown… some research needed.
Some grown things really add to the table, something are just treats. It is all worth the effort, the sense of “gangster” for growing your own, the flavor!! The spiritual sense of connection to your food.
During the storm I sheltered myself indoors and watch and listen to the storm. I would practice my Shakuhachi during these times. I was told by my Komuso sensei about connecting to the environment was an important part of playing. Today and yesterday I sat at the window, feeling as if I sat on an enclosed patio and played. The storm blew, I blew, we blew. On one song the storm and my energies blended and as I played, the storm followed , or I followed the storm, we ended at the same moment, like matched lovers.

Sakai Blues Fest 2018

I wrote about the controversy, hmmm issue I had with this a few months back. Which was resolved so I attended the event this weekend. Sat., I was the with the Doc’s band. We had 1 rehearsal a couple of week ago. Two days before the event he wants to change a song and add a different one. This song has some complex breaks in it. However he wants to do it. Sigh. 
 
I arrive to the area pretty early so I can find the venue location. I stop by the main stage area and see a few people I know and get some light directions. I got to the general area but still was not at the right location. I ended up in front of the place we played last year. Someone saw me who kind of knew me from before or some place else. Anyway he and and guy took me to where I needed to go. Kind people, most Japanese. At the venue I saw the guitar player from my other band, the Sieki Band. He was not playing just watching.
 
After a while the rest of the doc’s band shows up. He decides what the order of the songs and what songs we are doing. Of course this should have been done before hand and not the day of, but I rolled with it, as common. We were set to do 5 songs, the sixth song held in reserve, for him to do. I was set to sing the opening song, with the Doc singing the rest. It worked for me. 
 
Our time came around and we got set to play. Following his lead we started, it went well. I was put off that he sat on the foot floor of the stage while we stood on stage proper. It looked tacky. but the band played on. The next four songs were sort of bad, especially the new song never rehearsed, him still sitting next on the stage floor when not singing.
We made it through the planned set, and find out there is time for one more song. The Doc’s girl friend and a couple of others call for me to do a song. I say no, the drummer asks me also, please we need to sound strong for closing. Ok I say. I had no plans of doing a song so I had to think fast. I chose a song we had done before with me singing, but the Doc had taken over. We start slowly finding the groove, the Doc complains about the tempo or something. I did not quite hear, which was good, or I might have told him to sing it then, I have had this issue with him before. Anyway we got it rolling and it was sounding ok, not great  but ok. When his guitar part came we thought he would not stop, I jumped in with Harmonica so we could put a close to the song. He tends to drag on and on, and on with his solos. We ended ok and it was done. 
 
We sat for a drink and some of them ate. The keyboard player took off. I did shortly afterwards. Later I told the drummer the Doc’s performance was sort of embarrassing. He said his girl-friend and him were joking around about it. He did not eat and had a drink, it was effecting him. Hahah. I just sad hmmmm. His playing was off a lot, but overall his stage presence was lame. I thought sitting on the edge of the stage was tacky, missing notes when playing was one thing, but image is another. Anyway his band, his name, not mine. Soooo, oh well. No one cares but me so, whatever.
 
 
The next day I was doing my first solo spot for the show event. I was loaded down with my equipment. I had put together one extra song the night before, just in case I needed it, I was not sure about the time needed for setup and take down. Therefore I brought my guitar just in case I needed a fourth song. I had my keyboard, wires, drum machine, guitar and Shakuhachi. This was to be my first public playing of Shakuhachi with a modern song, not a traditional Shakuhachi. 
 
I made it to the main stage area again to get my back stage pass. Again some hellos and I stare off for the venue. This time I had a better idea on getting there and had my google map set on the phone so I pull just followed it. I made it with no problem. It was not where I expected but I could tell it was the place because of the people standing there outside. It seemed I caused quite a stir when I arrived. I got a lot of questions and asked for pictures. Not because I was famous or anything just being the black gaijin.
As it turns out there was another guy there from Ca. I was scheduled to play after him. He was gotten or just happened to come out, we spoke for a short bit. He did not live in Japan just visiting for his third time. After things settled a bit, I sat a few people came at next to me, chatted a bit, toke a picture then left. Another guys sits next to me we talk some , then he goes inside and brings me a beer. I thank him but say I am not drinking. It seems more polite than saying I hate beer. He takes it back, and returns shortly. We chat he is the owner of the club. Ohhhhh. I gave him my card, he gives me his. My card says I am a Buddhist Priest, he tells me he is also, with a certain Buddhist sect and shows me some pictures. Then he shows me some hand signs they use, somewhat like Ninja power things. Then he moves on to take care of some things. I wait more…I hear the other guy from California playing. I am to follow him, I was not impressed, like a country singer playing the blues, no soul more hillbilly like. The Japanese must like him because had played at two other spots over the weekend, solo at each. It was sort of fitting in with the other players I had heard so far there. I was thinking. hmmm maybe they are not ready for what I will be doing. Oh well!
 
Showtime and a guy who knew me ( another one I did not know him, but he knew me), helped me move my stuff and another helped me setup. I was ready. My first song was a slow blues. I had pre-record my drum and bass tracks on a machine. The first song I would start with Shakuhachi , then switch to keyboard, vocals and harmonica. When the other guy was playing there were a few people in the room and a few more in the next room. After I was setup and ready to go, I looked up to speak and , wow the place was full. I said something about that they laughed, saying they wanted to check me out. Hahah
 
I started, when I finished the opening Shakuhachi, which I thought I did pretty well, I not embarrass myself a least, they clapped! I continued on into the song. It went well. I was satisfied with my performance. The audience enjoyed it. The next started well, however about just past halfway through it, I got a little lost. I could not hear my sound track , with the feedback from the Mic and the volume being controlled by the sound engineer. I rolled with it trying to hear and reset my timing to match. I tried to cover it by ending early and not fighting with it or just stopping to find my place. They crowd did not seem to mind or notice. I checked my time I was doing ok, but I would not do but just one more. This was a funky blues, funky, I was not sure if they could handle it. I started, with the beat and the bass only. I started to clap with the beat to set the groove, I asked them to join, I was surprised and pleased they did so. They got into it, head bobbing, feet patting and clapping, it went well. Bam it was done. 
 
I packed up and went outside to organize. The owner came out and congratulated me. He asked if I did not drink at all or what. I said yes I do, Sake, and Sochu is ok. He asked wine? I said yes. He said ok and went inside. I was thinking he will get me a glass of wine. He returned and gave me a whole bottle of fairly high-grade wine. I was shocked!
I thanked him, a lot Japanese style, and headed off to chat with friend and his family who had shown up to see me. 
 
I did not think there were any pictures as I did not set up my camera, but later some came to me. Some from the event photographer posting and my friend. It was a good day. Now I know the music combo in my head will work, yatta! I had gotten some good feedback on using the Shakuhachi with the blues from some samples I sent to a couple of people, I will build on that from now! There will be two path with the Shakuhachi. It will be an interesting journey. Yosh! It is good to make some headway. Now If I could just do that with my Kyudo…
 

…and the beat goes on. April


And the beat goes on…
The path of “music”
Springs forth, a babbling stream
as do buds of the Sakura.

A lot of music stuff has been happening. I think the last thing I wrote besides Shakuhachi music was about the Blues Festival, complex mixup. I was under the wrong impression about being required to buy a shirt. So that is back on the burner as a ToDo.

 

The Sieki Band, 

 
We had a good rehearsal am I am liking the way the band sounds, especially with the harmonic vocals. However they need work. Like most things worthwhile. ( Ch’an lesson for today) The keyboard guy, Lucky Joe, a real character, good for a group, is good, he fills a lot. The guitar is a good rhythm holder. We have a show coming up on April first. It is a small showcase venue, we are in a show with three other bands. I am fairly sure this is a no pay , just showcase kind of thing. Which is ok we are a totally new band. We have a Practice session this coming Sat. A band that has practice sessions before doing a show ! What a concept! Radical.
 

The Jazz Session


There is a monthly Jazz Jam session, nearby my house. I have been before, and posted stuff. Ozaki Jazz Society, I call it. The people are nice, the club manager also lets me know what there is I can eat from the spread that is put out as a free buffet. He knows I do not eat meat. Most of the players are very good. However I do not like just trying to play a Jazz song with no practice if I do not know it well. Most of the regular songs I know are not Jazz. So when I go to this I have to pick songs to do, that are Jazzy. It is kind of hassle. I go maybe once every three months. I went there last week. It was good. We came together and even though our first time together with these members, and me trying to explain what I wanted, always an adventure. We sounded good. If anyone is interested in hearing the 20 min sessions cuts can click HERE?
 

School of Rock,

 
There is a keyboard player who I have played with on several occasions. I like his style and he speaks a little English. Several months ago he asked me to play a show with him in March. It happened just this past weekend. I was to play bass with him on a few songs, then do a few songs on my own, guitar, or piano and/or with him if I wanted on keyboard.
This was our first gathering, with the other members he brought in. We had a percussionist, steel drum, keyboard and bass, with some vocals from whoever.
We got together before the set to practice. It went well, we fit and worked together as a group. Afterward we went next door to the live house and ate at the small local Izakaya. They were a bit surprised with me there, but were friendly. We ate, chatted, joked and bonded. I already knew the percussionist, she had done backup singing for me before. The only new person was the steel drum player. Still we all got along, no attitudes. This is a cool band. It would be interesting to do more with them, there could be some cool stuff development!
 
We went back to do the show. Not many people, which did not surprise me. Toward the end of the night a few people came in. Those that did seemed to enjoy one woman got up danced. The group sets went well. We sounded like we have played together before, have not, at least with this configuration. Click for a sample HERE
When it was my turn, I figured I would do a test run of the plan for my show at the Blues festival. I had prerecorded bass and drum tracks on to a new loop unit, I recently acquired. So Drum and bass recorded, I played keyboard and Harmonica, with my vocal. It went over well as I had hoped. It sounded good and I did not embarrass myself with a big mistake. 
So I am confident I can pull off the Blues festival and also with the right planning and effort I can do a full solo session at some club, or at least half. I am thinking a club where the docs band used to play. “Chicago Rock” is a pretty popular spot. It would be good to play “here even twice a year.
 

Snafkin

 
It has been quiet there since the owner passed away. Just recently I hear tha his wife will now open the cafe only on the weekends. I always like that place. It is where I met several players I became friends with. This Sat there is to be small session, I will attend. I am considering doing my first non traditional Shakuhachi song. I want my friend to play Shamisen with me, but I do think she is comfortable. I will write out here part just in case, otherwise I will prerecorded on the Looper the rum Shamisen and bass parts, and just play the Shakuhachi live.
Then do one other song with whoever is there, which will include my favorite sax player. I am not a big Sax sound fan, but I like her tone and playing. It should be a fun session and nice to see the Snafkin crowd again.
 

Sakai City Blues Festival

 
This is going down the last weekend in April. I am going to need to be there for both days. Day one I will be playing bass for the Matsuo Blues Band.
The next day, I will be doing a solo set, with me on Keyboard and me on digital backup. Having already did the set at the last club The Happy Rabbit, I am feeling comfortable with some more practice it should go smooth.
You can hear a sample HERE

 

Snafkin by the Sea

 
I kind of feel this is my home base club. It had been awhile since going, since the master’s passing. I had through the grapevine, the place was closing with just
The wife left to run it. However I received a notice it was going to be opening only on the weekends. It seems like a few of ladies have gotten together to help the widow run the place. My friend sends me posting on FB about a few things that have happened there, but I have been busy on those same time.
I had made a point of going last night. I was not sure just what the plan was, if it It an open session or there was a group playing or a mix. I had said to Iyo-san I would do a song with her.
 
 
I showed up about 1 hour after the show started. I was surprised at the turnout, but there was a seat for me. I saw there my two Kyudo sempai who first got me to Snafkin. I was pleased and surprised. I kept being asked by several if I was going to play, where was my bass or something? I said I did not know if I was playing or not. Since I did not how things were being handled. I just watched. It was enjoyable. After a while the owner comes over to me. I thought she was collecting entrance money but she was asking me if I wanted to play something, not pay something. There was a time limit on how long they could play until. I said ok, one song with the band. I liked all of the players so did not want to replace them, piano, Bass, guitar, Sax, and that drum box thing. I did not bring anything with me except my Shakuhachi and Harmonicas. I opted to play Harp and sing. I gave them the key to play a simple funky blues, and the bass line to work around. With the Jazz players it took on a nice nature. Too bad I was not recording for that, it was awesome! Always the best stuff when not planning for it.

 

Page One

 
This is a new to me club. The Sieki band was arranged to play there. It was one of those nights when there are several bands, and it is a mix of styles. Not a loose everyone play with whoever jam session, but each group got a chance to play.
There were five of us, bands. It was a broad mix, metal, punk, blues, big band.
The club is easy to find and not too far from home about an hours. Nice little place, small but not too small. We went on next to last. It was a very comfortable show and went well. A few mistakes but nothing that showed badly. . We must have did good, we were the only band asked to do an encore. Things were a bit loose but not overly. It was a fun night. I did an edited recording of the concert to 20 min if interested HERE
 
So those are the big things happening in my small music world outside of SuiZen Buddhism.
One thing for sure is I am doing far more musically here in Japan than I would in the States. A good path for a retirement. It is different playing when you are young to be rich and famous from when you are older and just play , because you can. I would love to have a steady, even somewhat steady “Gig” as a musician again. I can work toward that hope, goal, but it is Journey not the goal.

Progress in small steps

Even small steps forward, is still progress, it is not the size of the step, it is the direction.

I am starting to feel like I am making some progress on several endeavors. Since I just came in from Kyudo practice I will start with that.

There was a Rei Kai today. It took me a while to figure out it is Rei Kai, not Dae Kai, not that it really matters, it is just a label. The event is important, not what I called it.
The ReiKai today was small as most of inner dojo events are. It was cold, I continue to be grateful we are inside dojo. I would have really suffered had it been outside. Still during break many were standing around our one little space heater, or had on their outside coats.

The day went smooth, it was a relaxed day. My shooting was not great, I was able to hit one out of the first two sets , then as I made adjustments I hit two out of the last set of four. After that time one of my Sempai Sensei said something to me, as him another Sensei who often helps me had been watching my shooting and discussing it. The second Sensei, the senior seem very reluctant to say anything, but the other spoke up. My balance when shooting was off. I guess I was leaning into the shot too much. My pushing toward the mato was turning into a lean toward the mato. I made a note of it.

The main shooting was over now was the time everyone shot again but instead of 4 arrow, it was one, per round. If you made the shot you continued, if not bye bye. I applied a correction to what I had been told. Instead of just pushing, I lifted my head and stretched my spine upward, like when doing Tai Chi, or sitting Zazen. Also then push toward the mato and away from it with the opposite hand. So as I had been told before or read, that it was more of a circular expansion not just vertical. To the Heaven and earth, and to the sides. So I guess not really round, but all around. I also did the tightening of the triceps as Yamashita Sensei had told me, upon release. The other thing was to place myself “in between the bow and the string. Aonther thing I had heard or read about, but I finally figured out the feeling. When I do it the ya goes straight, like an arrow :-). It is sort of leaning into the bow to place yourself in the middle. Technically I am not between the bow and the string, but it feels that way. I am not supporting the pull with my arms, and chest, but “body”, Bam , a hit, I thought I was done for a while. But I was called up again, Bam! hit, and a another time. I was in the finals. I missed my last rotation shot, maybe everyone else did as well. However, wow I was doing good. I am finally starting to understand, things are starting to click. Usually when I think like that, I find I am wrong, but so far this time it has held up. I still have a way to go, but I am making progress and have found the spot to aim from on my Yumi. Now more and more practice and I should be ready for the Shinsa this summer. Sato Sensei asked me was I going to the shinsa in March I said no, more practice yet. But I believe with continued practice Summer will be it. If not there is Autumn, and Winter. Also next year, if God be wiling and the creek don’t rise. Maybe these days it should be If God be willing and hte bombs don’t fall! Either way I am feeling good about this being the year of Yondan. The “Dog” is with me!

The day before I had my monthly meeting with the Shakuhachi group. A cold and rainy day, once agin we met at Oota- Sensei shop. This from what I understand maybe becoming out regular meeting spot. It is a bit rustic, but comfortable and no hassle to be there and no conflicts with other groups wanting to use the space.

We went through the usual drills. I was able to play along on a couple of piece that I had not done before. For me that was a personal victory. Then everyone played the individual pieces they are doing. Finally it was my turn, I was not really excited about, but I did Choshi. The Yamamoto, version. I received some corrections and tips on playing. Then asked to do it again so I could practice. It was better, still needing work but better. I could hear a Sempai grunt an approval of parts I did correct. Afterwards he says, I do the last phrase well, I did need to work on the small adjustments. Another Sempai showed me how to correct one part. Later I was told I have good potential my tone is good. That was good to hear…yatta!

I also decided on the Shakuhachi I wanted Oota-Sensei to make for me. I heard a couple of different sizes being played and my ear was most pleased with the 2.0. It was told to me later by another Senpai about having six hole instead of 5. I had not thought of that, but upon hearing it said and explained why, it is a good idea for my experimental flute. It will take some time before it all comes together. Oota-Sensei will have me select the Bamboo I want as the next step, now that I have chosen the size.

I was given the application for joining the Myoanji temple. This was helpful. I can fill out the form before meetinG with Matsutani-San next month. The Sempai who gave me the application, told me later that he would be my sponsor if needed. I thanked him told him that Matsutani-San a friend of my Sensei said he Would sponsor me. The Sempai said, ohhhh, yes, you should go with him as a sponsor he is very well known…Yatta, Another plus for me!

After the practice meeting, as is the custom we went out for food and drinks. I have never done that in the States, hanging out with the guys at a bar drinking and chatting. Even with my Kung fu family. We did that at the Dojo with Shifu after our closed door classes. My brother and I when we went out it was to eat Chinese food. It was not that often like a ritual as it is with the Japanese. It is a normal custom in Japan, at lest with companies. It was fun, even with my limited Japanese we had a good time. One Sempai is heading to Hawaii soon and wanted to practice some English. They made sure I had what I could eat and we had a good time talking misc stuff including, Shakuhachi technique playing compared to feeling playing,

So process is being made. The new band is feeling positive, Kyudo is feeling positive, Shakuhachi world is also feeling positive. I need to crack down on my Japanese study next. still…The year of the Dog is off to a good start…Yosh!

 

Cracks, Bamboo and Blues

Well travel time is over for a while, sort of, a couple of small trips still on the horizon, but nothing to write home or blog about.

On the Music scene …thankfully my Shakuhachi has been repaired. My Sensei took it to his friend, who he says is one the of the number top Shakuhachi makers in Japan. This makers usually does not do repairs on other makers instruments, but as a friend he is doing/did it. The maker did and outstanding job also much much cheaper than the original repair person I took it to. That guy was really more into selling me a new one than repairing mine.

So now I have a nice whole flute again. He not only fixed the crack but the joint as well. I like the wrapping he did. It gives the flute “character “ and that cool old school Shakuhachi look. Sensei and the maker said even though my shakuhachi is not a professional level model it is still a good flute. Especially says Sensei for playing Honkyoku songs. He says it is rare to find this type of flute these days as most makers are making “modern” sounding flutes. Tuned to western pitch and louder playing. So I am pleased to have it back. I have also learned to take better care of it when it is resting.

Now I can really crack down on my practice for the up coming event I am scheduled for in March. I will be doing my first public performance in front of serious players at a Buddhist temple event. This a big deal for me and it sort of coincides with my 3 years of lessons anniversary.

At this event I will meet a Komuso who is to be my sponsor for joining in the Miyonji Temple as a “real” Komuso. Again something that really only matters to me and in the large picture of life means nothing. Isn’t that the same with most of our individual ego trips, adventures. Gives a little boast to our own self-image.

On the other hand, who knows what help, lift  it will give someone when out as a Komuso to someone who hears the music.

Lastly, I will be placing my order for a new Shakuhachi this weekend. I have settled on what I want. I will order it from one of the members of the classical Shakuhachi Society I play with once a month. This is the member who gave me the large Shakuhachi which I enjoy. I have decided on one in between the 2.5 and the 1.8 cm I like the deeper tone of the larger flute over the smaller. The larger one though is more difficult to play, more so I think with “modern” songs I want to play. If I am wrong I will just make due with it and adjust to the song. At least that is the plan. Man makes plans, God laughs is a saying.

On the band scene, we have had our second rehearsal with the new band. A keyboard player has joined us. It really helps round out the sound.

 

Another plus with him is he also sings so we can work on some vocal harmonies that really adds to the band sound. I heard from the blues  “Doctor” that the band has been selected to play again this year at the big city Blues Festival, however we will be once again in the small club. Reason being our vocals are weak. Quite understandable. Really we have none. The “Doc” is a weak singer and we never practice on vocals, well on anything really. I have on a couple of songs tried to “hear” a harmony with him but he is difficult to harmonize with, not really an expressive voice, he plays better than sings. Which is ok, for the blues, but limits the band appeal.

I am still waiting to see if I have been selected to do a solo act at the festival. The choices are selected and posted on Sat.

Can’t stop the music

 

 

The beat goes on …

 

Last week or so, I had a showcase event with a new band, “Sakai Sieki”. I have played at this club, The Red House, a couple of times. The owner had made suggestions about us playing together. After our first meeting I had said I was looking for a band to join, he said he was looking for someone with my skill set. Nothing else was said for a while. Then again after I did a small spot there as a solo we spoke again briefly. After few days afterward I was asked if I wanted to join a jam session with a friend of his. Sure I said let’s do it. It went ok. It was easy and fun, we played, ate, and drank. It was a pleasant evening.

A few days afterward I am asked if I wanted to do a show with them at the club. It was not a paid gig, but a showcase. We were to be the opening act for a couple of known groups. A test run as it were. I was asked about getting together for a practice session the day of the show. I said it was better to have a couple of practice sessions more so since it was our first time together. He agreed. The practice went well. I learned of their weak points, we all have them, so I adjusted the songs I wanted to do, to their skill set. Again overall it went well. The day of the show we again met and rehearsed. We were set. After rehearsal The drummer and I went to get something to eat. He is also a quasi Vegetarian, so we went to a place that I had gotten soy burgers from before. I was not really looking forward to going to eat with the drummer. He is a nice guy, likes to talk, but does not speak any English. That means I have to deal with only Japanese and figuring out what he is saying. Work!! We went to the restaurant, called “Mos burger”. Bummer bummer! They changed their Menu, no more soy burgers. Crap! I took a fish sandwich instead, as did the drummer. We spoke some, about Kung fu, a blues club nearer to my house, music, etc. it went ok. I did not get somethings, but I got enough to communicate. I am always surprised when I can do that. We ate, and went back to the club to wait.

 

We had several hours to kill before show time. The other two bands showed up, and did their practice. I knew a couple of the players in one of the other bands, and one player in another. The one band where I knew two players, is a smoking hot band. I think for what I have seen the best Blues Band here in Osaka. It is good to be an opening act for them and not to follow them. They would be hard to follow, they are a tight sounding band!

Show-time came, we were up. We did 6 songs. The one song I have been really wanting to do good, did not turn out so well, as least parts of it. The drummer forgot about the breaks I wanted, and I messed up badly once. Some parts were ok. With some more practice it could be a good song. We only really practiced it a couple of times. The other songs, went better, not perfect, but still ok. They were simple blues type songs. We played through the errors and just rolled with it. When it was done, we got a fair share of approvals.

I figured out how to set my smart phone timer camera to record video on a start stop, start timer. That was cool and helpful, as well as painful to hear the mistakes. A good training aid. I did some editing and put together a sample vid, which can be seen here.

 

A few days later after things settled and such, it was suggested we keep the band together, we could be good with some more time together. So officially I am with a new band now. One thing I have noticed about bands and players in Japan, players often belong to several bands and no one cares. It is normal, in the states, usually one is with just one band. A player can do more than one, but unless they are just floaters usually just one band is the focus. Another thing I notice is more people here just play to play for the music, not to become stars or get a gig. A gig is a Paying job, not a freebie showcase or something of that sort. Work is the goal not just playing to have a good time, that is what jam sessions are for, in the States.

So this new band could be good, it may give me some possibilities of different expressions in sound. It is not a “Blues” band per-se. The term I heard was Neo-soul. Good, I like being able to do other songs other than just blues. I do hope we can get one other member, a pianist would be sweet, but a good horn or guitarist would also be nice. So this is something to look forward to for the upcoming year. I still will pursue my own solo path as well, but the band with give me a different musical outlet. I will still play with the Doc’s band when asked, but is a minor priority as he does not want to put in the work and time to be more than a “fun” time playing. I want to do more than play some little dive live house bar. I may never make it past that, but…one needs goals to be more than you are now…ones spirit, at least mine needs to grow!