Trips around the Sun…

 

It has been a while since I posted. Life happens! Since today is the anniversary of my Sun orbit cycle for this passage, it is as good a time as any to do a new post. Maybe the best timing.

A lot has passed since my last entry. It is hard to find a beginning spot that matters if any does. The last thing I recall here is I was just ready before going back to Nara. I did I bit of Takuhatshu there, before going to the temple to play for OMatsuri at Sempai’s local temple. That was interesting. I always enjoy these small local things. They are like a small mini time travel session. I did my small bit of playing shakuhachi for the group. which was larger than I thought. They were as always impressed that I could play and was there. Everyone was nice. Details are on the Komuso Blog.

Shortly after I went to the Kobe Blues session. I do not go often do to the distance and cost of travel, besides the next day hassles of early the night before if I do not stay over at a friend’s. It is fun the session, but there is usually a feeling of empty at times. Hard to explain sometimes it is great, other times…lacking

And now after my birthday dinner and most of a bottle of sparkling wine, I can not recall must of that time anyway.

Ok, so rather than trying to fill in what I do not recall I will start from where I do. Yesterday, for my birthday my wife took me a Greek restaurant. There have been very good reviews from the locals. There are very few Greece places in Japan. This is one of 3 that had good ratings. Also, they usually had a mix of Italian food not just Greek. Coming from The bay Area where we have a lot of Greek deli type places I give it a rating of 6 on a 1-10 scale.  10 being the best! it was good and a nice change, but the Greek in better in Cal. Even from the Deli. I really wanted a Falafel !! Oh well.

The other night there was a session at Snafkin. It was really a night were the IYO band was playing. However, we were going to slip in a practice session for my band, which was performing in an upcoming concert at the beach for Snafkin. It is an annual thing. So we were going to get in a practice before and after the AYO band played. He, the keyboard player, plays for them mostly and a solo acts himself. That is the thing in Japan no one just plays for one band unless that band has a national name.

We, my new band, got in some practice time and it went fairly well. One song sounded like we practiced it more than just once today. I was surprised. I was expecting to play once more or so after the AYO band finished, but I find out I am requested to play as a part warmup act for the IYO band. I was not expecting that. Ok quickly considered what to do. I drafted the Bass player from IYO’s band. He was very hesitant! Saying he did not know the song. No big deal I said. It was weird. He was reacting the same way I do when asked to sit- in on a Jazz piece. This was just a Blues and I gave him a chart. Anyway, he agreed finally. I was going to play a song where I got to use Shakuhachi. I always need the practice live. We started the song slowly, I was having a lot of trouble getting a sound from my flute. OHG, so embarrassing!! This was a was my Zen and Kung Fu training kicked in. Do not panic, breathe, think! I fiddled with the mic and tried several times to blow but no sound. Ok, I got a drink, as if I needed it, then just started to sing. As I sang I gave the flute a few tries, and finally was able to connect. I played for just a small bit, and then I lost the sound. As in Kyudo when you miss the shot it is usually something about “you” that is the issue, not the equipment. In the case of the Shakuhachi, this is so very very true. the problem was me! There are no parts or anything with the Shakuhachi, it is a tool of truth, you can get a sound, or you can not, it is not the lacking of within the flute.

I play a little then again lose it, I did not panic, never panic. I decided to switch up and play the Harmonica. I went over to the table to get my harp and as I reached for it, I knock over my Bass which was next to it them. I laughed, the keyboard player laughed. I rolled with it and kept singing and made the switch. Things went well… of sorts. I Kept having issues with the Mic adjustment location. As the Keyboard players were doing his solo, he started dropping papers and stuff. Again we laugh, but the song goes on. That is how we roll. LoL!!

Overall even though I still had a few issues with hearing myself, we finished the song and for the most part it turned out ok. I did not realize that until afterward when I listened to the video. All that stuck out for me was the suck parts when I could not get a sound! After listening to the recording I find it was not so bad 🙂

Our next song, was really just the new band. Really a trio today as we had no percussion. We did a cover song by Stevie Wonder. This our second time playing ever, today. Surprising it turned out good. Like we knew just what we were doing, helps when the band members lesson to each other. I did this same song with one of the other bands, the Kuruzeders, we did not sound as good then as we did with this Trio!

The next day I am chilling, very limited Facebook interaction. I am planning to enjoy my birthday break. I spent the day, a small bit of gardening, mostly just working on my ceramic pieces. I hope the person in charge of firing at “club”  did /does so over the break. I now have about 8 pieces that need to be “baked” before I can take the next step and do the glazing before putting them up for sale and seeing if there is any interest. That would really really give me a boost if there was interest in buying. I could actually have something artsy that was marketable. Music is a difficult Art route for more than pleasure.

Speaking of music that is the other thing I did over my Sun circumnavigation trip anniversary. I discovered a song I want to do as part of my solo set and maybe with the new band, I am just recently asked to Join. So I worked on that song. I put down a beat track and a bass track on my looper to give me something to work from. It went well, that another song which I started with one of the other bands.  I just realized I am connected to several bands: The Kursaders, The Saki Band, Mr Joe’s girl band, and my Kaze Band, oh and sometimes the Dirty Deal Blues Band.

The other big musical thing I did was some work to my Bass. I have been thinking about changing my bridge to a Gold Brass one. I have been putting it off and off, finally, I went for it. I was nervous about doing it correctly, there are many adjustments to set and this was my first time. I took my time and it went well. I could tell a difference in the sound right away.

After all my years of playing, this is the first Bass I have made truly mine! Not just mine as in owning, but mine as in changing stuff just to my taste. Cool it is!

So all in all at this time in Life, things are pretty good. Making music, Kyudo, Ceramics, My WaterWorld life is pretty much a wash:-(, as is my Kung Fu teaching. I guess I should just consider myself retired from those fields. Oh well, one can not have everything they say. I am sort of getting a new change of plan for Japan travel. Since I can not do it by sailboat, perhaps by motorcycle. Since I have had my eye surgery I am pretty sure I can pass my eye test for a Japan drivers lic. However I do not have a motorcycle, but it would be easier to get and keep than a boat. Still, there is the money thing and with a set budget, it is pretty much in the same realm as a boat…an out-there-dream! Yet, things change as you live and breathe. One never knows what the tide ( Heaven ) will bring in…Amituofo

 

 

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The Bamboo path


The Bamboo path

The Classical Shakuhachi Society
The Shakuhachi journey has various roadside stops. It is interesting along with the people one meets. We had our monthly Classical Shakuhachi Soceity meeting last week. This time we had a full house. I had invited a new aquitence I meet, via my Komuso Sempai. He is a priest, of a Jodo Buddhist temple, as is another our of group. Another member had bring along someone who had contacted him and there was a new player/student of another member there as well. He was new to playing Shakuhachi. In total there were nine. Three more than usual. It was a nice size.
We did a round of introductions, I got very little of the info, of course. However it did not matter I got the gist of it! Afterward we played together a few songs and individual songs. Afterwards we had the refreshments. Misc foods, wine, sake, words and laughter. I am not suppose to be drinking, but I still had some. Just did not over do it. Once in a while is ok! It was a good session, we all had fun. One nice thing about this group we are all about the same age.

Zen Rhythm Cafe
The following Sat, my new friend the priest’s temple held their monthly Cafe session. I went this time. It was my second visit. This time I had prepared some songs. The cafe is held inside of his temple on the second floor of a wonder building. There are a few tables set up for buying gifts, coffee, a small meal, foot and or back massage, and fortune telling. Also there is floor space for music acts.
I arrived later than I planned, but still in time to do several songs. I played Shakuhachi with myself as backup. I had made a recording of myself on Sansen, piano, bass, an guitar. I wanted to test how it would go, as part of my plan for solo performances. As I arrive late there were not late many people there, but it was well received.
I hungout afterwards and spoke with a few people. I spoke with the fortune teller as she was starting a group session. I learned she was doing the Japanese version of Tarot Cards. She said she is the only one in Kansai who does them. She also said it is a Shinto tradition, I did not know that. I passed on joining and just watched.
Another guy comes to me, he is a friend of the priest. This person speaks English. He is like a Japanese Caropractor. He studied in the states. He was invited by the priest to act as a translator so we could speak easily. The guy was interesting. We spoke of natural healing and energy flow as well as sound vibrations.
After all was done, and the “cafe” was over, we went downstairs to the kitchen. There the priest’s wife made a “Hotpot” ( Nabekura) meal for the priest, his friend, the new student from the Shakuhachi group who had also come and myself. We ate a lot and drank. There was a lot of wine and some sake, but I did not feel over loaded. We chatted and drank. After eating we went to the garden area and sat on the porch and listen and watched the rain fall on the garden. We spoke spoke of gardening and life. The priest’s wife brought us dessert and tea, the men sat and talked. It was very Japanese.
A nice way of spending a Sat night…Amituofo

Playing in the mud


Playing in the mud 

 

When I first started thinking about moving to Japan, there were a few things on my to-do list. Study Zen, Kyudo get my Yondan, Sail the inland sea, play music and study Shakuhachi. There were some other things that included the boat, but those were more business related, like teaching Martial Art classes. It could still happen and it did for a while, but it dried up. I have pretty much been blessed to have done most of those things. Even on a small scale.

I have gotten to sail the Sea of Seto, not as much as I hoped for, but I did do some. My Zen studies continue although not Japanese Zen so much. But I did have some exposure to it. The Kyudo is an on-going struggle. I am with several bands on and off as well as having and developing a solo music career. Shakuhachi is included in that along with finding a teacher and becoming a Komuso. Something I had not thought of but find rewarding, Spiritually.

Finally, I have joined a ceramic workshop. Not a class perse, but a workshop, where I can practice and develop my skill and projects. It is in the next town and I can ride my bike to the location. which is very nice. I started a couple weeks ago. I have some Art project I am planning and I have free rein on what I want to do. So that is very cool. There is no wheel in the class, and tools are limited, but that is ok. The project I have in mind are all hand built items anyway. It is good I had some background in that. As I look back on my former study I learned and was exposed to quite a bit in my college classes. I had a small introduction to ceramic as part of my Graphic Designer major. I enjoyed it to continue with additional classes outside of my required credit.

So another item checked off on my Japan bucket list.

…and Now for Something Completely Different

 

 

Shakuhachi Blues in the Temple Cafe

Now getting back to Japan life. There is a lot going on, it has already started a few days ago. Several band performances, Just finished one at the Sakai city Blues festival. Maybe a post about that…maybe. Up coming a performance at My SuiZen temple, Myoanji and just finished a small prayer, and visit and performance at the temple of a new friend.

Via my Komuso Sempai in Nara I made the acquaintance of another Priest Shakuhachi Player. He has a temple that is not too far from here. Just below Kobe. I go out that area from time to time, because of the Band, or Boating. Shibata Sensei’s temple runs what they call a café, once a month. Hot drinks, snacks, misc items for sale, neck massages, card telling, musical entertainment. It runs all day. From 11- 5:00. Very casual and low key.

This Priest is looking to bring more of the Shakuhachi into his Buddhist practice. He already plays at some of the temple services. He is not Zen he is of the Jodu sect. He holds formal weekly services.

I contacted him via FaceBook and made arrangements to attend the next Café, so we can do a face to Face meeting and chat. He spoke no English and my Japanese is basic and poor. However, I have nothing to lose by going and giving it my best shot to communicate. What could go wrong…

The day arrives I get directions with the help of my wife and I set off on a mini Shakuhachi adventure. I found the location rather easy and entered the Temple Yard. I was taken with the large Buddha statue. That was my first stop, bow then on to the temple. I heard voices when I enter, but I saw no one. I looked about a bit and saw through some glass and reeds people leaving a small garden. They were just on the other side of what could be a small tea room or sitting room.

I made my way to the door they were heading toward. There I met Sensei. We did the intro formalities and I was taken up stairs. There was more people than I expected there. A few sitting around a large fire pit, roasting coffee, then in another connecting room which was a large space, there were several small booth tables, food, etc out from there chairs. Next an open space which was the “stage area”, off from that a table with chairs. It was quite the place. The Sensei introduced me, then we went into another section. This was the temple “Heart”, where the ceremonies are done. We talked there for a while. I might have been asked to join now or the next ceremony, would I play?? or something. Anyway, a pray/chant, something started, a few people came. We took places at the “fish” drum/beater. Sensei explained some things, I did not understand also about following his beat.

OK we started he started chanting, then started the beat on the drumette. We followed. those who knew the words or could read them chanted along. Me I made the sound and beat the drum. It felt cool. I did not feel out-of-place, for some reason. It felt very “Native”, very basic beating this drum and chanting.

Next Sensei asked me to play. Hmm ok. I did the Tamuke offering, Fuu style. I was not bound by any “rules” on what or how to play. I was able to use a headset, which was cool. I could hear clearly what I was playing as could those in the temple hall. I dig that I could hear and so I did not think I just played.

I did not clearly know what was going. I said, I would play another tune and did something contemporary. I thought this was all part of the ” TempleCafe“. Even though I was not asked. I thought something for the Buddha, something for the folks, since I was there. Turns out I did not have that over my head.

I finished the second song and then the guy managing “the club” came in and ask would I also play in the Cafè. I thought that is what I did. Now I had used up the one non-hyukyoku I had prepared. Oh well. ON-ward, breathe…

Ok I said. We then, all in the temple hall, moved to the other section were, others sat, drank, ate, listened to the ukulele player.

I met a few other people there , one of who spoke English. I grabbed a chair and watched the show, also chatting with Sensei some. Also with the show “MC” he spoke just a little English, but we communicated. He would like me to play a song after the next act. Did I want the Ukulele player to help me? I said sure let have him and I play together. I had been thinking that for a few moments after listening to him. I felt I should have something other than “Fuu’s Tamuke” to play or any Honkyoku. Also I had done Summertime already in the Temple. Having thought I was doing the performance. Yeah, so I was only planning to do one song this time. I figured quickly to jot down a few simple cords changes on a paper and give it to the guy. Basic I/V/IV.

I said yes, we can play together…ok.

I sat through the next act. This was the Ukulele player and a woman who played an old style flute that was like a “gourd”. She was/they were pretty good.
I was up next. I was not nervous, I felt pretty relaxed during the intro…and then show time. I counted off and we started. The guy played pretty good and I tried to blend into his pattern and the changes. It went ok. The people enjoyed it, I was not that please, as it was “all just then”, birth on the spot.

It is kind of a “Mindmelt” with playing with strangers and a new piece of music. Even if it is just two cords, behaps that is more of a challenge. One reaches out with your spirit to touch another(s) and create another form, eity. This song, this vibration, and share it, giving it to humanity. It is weird, interesting amazing when one thinks about it…

I was ok with the piece. I heard a small bit of the recording. It was i the beginning, unsteady… Like a child walking. It started to find it’s balance just as the film was cut.

The people enjoyed it, it was one time vibration they experienced. So it was successful. I was asked to play one more. ehhhh,

oh snap, what am I going to play now? I thought…

Ok I fell back on Summertime. Since no one there heard it before other than Sensei. Also I never play it the same way. A little longer version with a bit more “flavor”. So it was done. People were impressed I think. Surprised for sure. Good chi was raise, so…cool

I was just pleased they enjoyed it and I did not lose face. I figured I would be asked to play that is why I brought my shakuhachi. This whole meeting was about Shakuhachi. Ok I was done. I played in the Temple for the Buddha offering and I played in the Cafè for the people. It was very Buddhist in for the benefit of society way. It was engaged, but private, sort of like doing Komuso Missionary.

I hung out for a while longer afterwards and just watched. When leaving I came across Sensei in the temple Hall with some others. He was telling them about … something to do with the shrine there. He brought out a couple of long Shakuhachi for me to look at. They were quite nice. He played a song for the couple. Amazing Grace. Japanese seem to like that song. Hmm gives me an idea for the next visit.

I put the wraps on my visit and made my way out.
I will return…Amitoufo

 

Back to the tunes


Back to the tunes…

I kind of lost my place in my blog tales, near as I can figure the last thing was the Jazz band jam. Ok so yeah. I had the Shakuhachi thing at Shintannoji. I wrote about it on the Komuso blog. A brief recap here. Shintennojiis considered the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan, I was invited once again to join the memorial concert and play a song on the Shakuhachi. This is my second year doing this. It is both a big deal and nothing. I was the only “gaijin” in attendance. This is event is something that has been going on for many many years. Once again I was the first one to perform. I figured out later it was because I was the new kid on the block. It went well. I played a different length Shakuhachi this time. The one I use for modern music, because I like the deeper sound than my 1.8 standard size. It went well. I did not make any noticeable mess ups and was only somewhat nervous. A new music friend who had contacted me on-line came over to me meet and listen. She was interested in doing some music collaborations for YouTube. We went for coffee afterwards. We came across a place where there was an open mic session going on. As it turns out one person there knew me and mentioned to the club owner I was a Shakuhachi player. I was pretty surprised that he knew that as I thought this person had only seen me play bass.
Next up was another Jam session at Chicago Rock. I got in touch with the keyboard player from m band. We meet up at the club. I had planned this time to do a blues song on the Shakuhachi. The same one I did with the Jazz band. This time I was more prepared to deal with the sound issues I had before. At first, I was going to start with the group play with me on the Shakuhachi then switch at a certain point and play the bass. However, at the last moment, I changed my mind. Since I had the music chart written out I figured I would let someone else play the bass. I would just focus on the Shakuhachi and singing, maybe do a little harp depending on how it was going.
I did a couple of songs playing bass and singing, they went ok as expected. My last turn up on the mic, I chose to just play Shakuhachi. As usual, people were surprised when I bought it out. I had the bass player from the last group play bass and my friend on Keyboard plus a couple of guitar players. We started. It went well. It was a bit rough but that is to be expected at a Jam with no rehearsal and a new song for everyone, plus a new arrangement. I had no real problems with the sound this time. It was not great but I could hear myself and others could hear me. The middle section did not go as nice as I wanted but, as I said expected. However, overall it went ok. There was no point I felt embarrassed. So that was a win. I asked a couple of people afterward online what they thought all said it was good. So I have the confidence now to continue. I have figured out the getting the sound out issue, so I can move forward. Also now I am getting established as a Shakuhachi blues player, something rare on the blues world. I am getting to do something a little different, in a place where everything is the same.
The band has a concert coming up at the end of April. A big blues festival. Last year I played solo on keys and Shakuhachi. This year the new band is enrolled. I will be doing two songs with them. The guitar player has no nite a second guitarist to sit in with us. That will work out fine. I will have one of them play bass whilst I play only Shakuhachi and sing. I had thought of doing the opening with Shakuhachi then switch up midway to playing bass. This way will be better. We have two practice sessions, before the concert so there will be time to work out the rough spots in the tempo change. It should go over good and be unique and memorable if we can pull it off. Diffinetly something no other band will be doing, I want that.

“Koten-shakuhachi-kenkyuu-kai”

“Koten-shakuhachi-kenkyuu-kai”

Society for the Study of Classical Shakuhachi

 

We had our monthly meeting a few days ago. The day before my return to Shitennoji to play. So it was another good chance to practice in front of serious ears.

Today we were supposed to have a guest. A student of Oliver, a sempai to me of course. He is a college prof and a writer. You can read his blog/webpage here on Komuso, shakuhachi,  Ok,  so his student from China who is visiting in Japan was going to be there. Hopefully, she would bring her Chinese Koto and play.

I was coming for sure that day. I came from another part of town than usual, I wanted to attend a Buddhist meetup I had been pushing off for a long time. A spent a lot of lost time that morning searching for the location. However, all of that is another story. I arrived at the Shaku group meeting a little later than planned but not enough to have missed a lot. I needed to pick up food to bring and grab something to eat then.

I slipped in and joined in the song that was upcoming on the agenda. A short while later another elder sempai bows his way in. We continue and also repeat Cho Shi together once more.

The way is made around the table for everyone to play a solo piece. I did Tamuki as a test for the Komuso offering event at Shitennoji. ( FYI: that whole story is on the Komuso blog). It went over ok, no one gave up any corrections except do not move the flute around so much. ( I was trying to find the sweet spot). The correction I was given last time I got the ok nod from another sempai when I asked him it was, ok? So ok, past that. I am feeling better about the performance on Sunday.

The visitor is up. She says she will not play shakuhachi but will play her Koto for the group. Perfect! we all some questions about the Koto as she was tuning. We all looked it over from all angles.

When she played it was heavenly. We all loved it. It was suggested that since I was the musician that she and I do a song together. If there was the time I would have liked that, however, I was feeling a bit shy about that at the moment as was she, so neither of us stepped to make it happen. Thinking back now I should have tried. It was not like a big deal to sound bad. Hahahah. It would have been all in fun. Sometimes being humble and shy is a fun blocker. I still need to step out of my comfort zone more, yet another personal challenge to work on….Amitoufo

 

 

Sessions…

Session by the Sea

Sessions are kind of like sex. It is usually good, but sometimes it is great! Depends on your partners. My last visit to Snafkin, I was invited to attend another session there on the 18th, which was yesterday! I was not sure who would be there. However, I was looking forward to it as there were going to be at least a couple of people I knew and played with before.
I had contacted another local musician, a mandolin player I meet at a session at Chicago Rock. We are in the same age group and he lives nearby. I played with him at Chicago Rick a couple of times and we rode the same twin home once before. I invited him to attend the session, but I was n to sure if he would. The keyboard player I have worked with and is perhaps one of my favorite players was scheduled to be there, but he said he was not sure about the time or appearance because of work. I was expecting the percussionist I have played with several times to be there, so I was told. 
The day arrives and I make ready to attend. I had three songs picked out to do. Really just two but this was just in case. I had no idea how long I was to play. I was even ready if I had to do with just myself and drums. 
It was nice it was not super cold, even though I was dressed for it! The temps were mild. I made my way to the cafe! It was not as crowded as I expected. Also, several people, I was expecting to be there were not. But it was ok. I arrived and said my hellos, I was pleased to see the mandolin player there. I was expecting him to be there to do a free Jam, but he said he was there for me! Cool, I thought. I also saw the keyboard player there already. However no percussionist. Ok, no big deal, we have played San-percussion before. 
There were a couple of acts before me. I sat, watched and grooved with them. One of them was another friend. I played with her a couple of times, she and played shamisen with me other times. Tonight she just had her keyboardist and sang. 
Soon I was up. I gathered my players, piano, and mandolin. It took a few minutes to figure out what we were doing and get things setup mic wise. The keyboardist was a little unsure about a couple of songs I spoke of, so I chose to stick with some simple blues. I also found out he remembered how I did Summertime and he played it in the right key for the Shakuhachi I brought along.
The first song was my version of “I hear my train coming,” by Hendrix. It is sort of a Jazzy funk blues. I have done it several places now. It fits me, and the people always seem to like it. It works with any group/band I am finding. Next up was “Summertime”. I played Shakuhachi on this and no bass, which I played in the first song. People are always surprised to see me bring out the Shakuhachi. Not something one expects to see for a Blues player. I was more prepared on what to expect this time as far as mixing the Shakuhachi. So that went ok. Another thing that had come to me when practicing. Is that I should be playing now, as when doing Honkyoku, it focuses on the notes, not how many I played, or how fast a run, but the feeling, the quality, tone, character of the notes. It made the playing better. Also made me less excited and able to blow more evenly instead of losing notes to just air sound. Even though that still happened at times. Overall it went very well. That was really my biggest concern is how will my Shakuhachi playing sound. It is still new to me in this venue. When we finished, we got a good response. From the band and the audience. 
My last song was a simple blues, but in a way sort of complex because of the rhythm change. Usually, I try to explain that to the players, but tonight I did not. I was going to keep it simple and just feel our way through it. Piano, Bass, harp, mandolin, and a guitarist joined us. We did the final song, almost perfect the tempo change came naturally and we flowed right into it. It was great. Again we were all impressed and pleased with the outcome. My only regret is that I did not record. I had thought about it, but after speaking with my friend about taking pictures and she wanted to use the camera, it slipped my mind to turn on my recorder on my smartphone. Oh well. It was sort of like a Zen thing, it was only to be experienced at that moment.
Afterward, we hung out a little, before my friend the Mandolin player and I walked to the train for our trip home. He gave me a lead on another good place to go fo Blues sessions, that was fairly local which also had good players to attend. Nice! I will be checking it out. Also, I am thinking more now about adding this mandolin to my personal group idea. I had thought of mandolin being more of a country sound, but this guy worked it with the blues. People at the club were impressed with his playing. I was even more impressed than when I heard him before. In this setting it was nice, nothing was too loud, so it all could be joyed, unlike at Chicago Rock where everything is so loud.
So yeah, like sex with the right partner, the session was great, a learning experience and a blessing…Amitoufo

Session @ the Rock

I had a gig a week earlier at Chicago Rock. I was part of a trio that the Chicago Rock Master had assembled. We had no rehearsal and no song list before the show. We three had played together once before again with no rehearsal just did it off the cuff. The other time we had Jo-San the keyboard player, this time no. Still even though very very loud it went over well. I was told to turn up my bass. That is really different! I neede to turn it up so it could be heard in the sitting room. In Chicago Rock, one small room is where the band is, the stage of sorts. The other room is where the people sit and drink. I had to turn up so loud it sounded distorted coming out of the amp. I did some recording that night, but because the Bass was so loud and the smartphone mic was not able to handle it, it sounded crappy when I played back. Generally, we, the band sounded pretty good, but the distortion was BAD on the recording. Which is really too bad a couple of songs we actually sounded good on! I am not sure what will happen with this group if I will play again? Nothing was said and I left pretty soon after we finished. I did not even stick around to see if there was enough income money to pay us. I chatted with a woman singer, for a short time who spoke some English. Then I took off for home. It was a good night.

Session Izumisano

Ok last on the music train. My friend the Percussionist, contacted me the other day. The day before the Snafkin session asking me to come by a show he was doing nearby my home. Usually, when I am invited it is to play something. however, nothing was said about me playing, So I was not sure. I was thinking maybe he just wants some body support at the show. However, I thought hmm ok, maybe I should bring my Shakuhachi just in case I am asked to do a ( one) song.


I went to the showplace and small little Cafe. Near the Indian restaurant, I go to and have been meaning to go by lately. The Manager saw me as I was walking by. we talk a little. I said I would be back if he was not closed. For you no worries he said. So off I went to find the Cafe. Without the smartphone. I would have never found it! Ok, I locate the cafe and someone comes out and shows me into a seat. It is a very small place. One big round table and several chairs around. I am greeting by my friend who is playing. I take a seat and settle in to watch. After about 3 songs, they are finished, I am thinking they are going on break. Nope, I am asked to do a song. EhhhH!!!!!! what? really?! hmmm. ok, I take a guitar and give some thought on what to play. I start slowly as I am not warmed up. It went ok. I changed somethings as I went along because I did not know all the Spanish words and did not have my harps. So it was just singing and guitar. Next up, a guy comes out and takes another guitar and starts playing off to the side but right next to me. I am thinking ok, I am done. However, I am asked to another song. Hmmmm ok. I say since there is someone with a guitar, I will play my shakuhachi. I give the guitarist some cords, tempo, and beat. We fiddle with it a little bit then start. It is all improvised for me, as what I was expecting to hear and what was being played were different. So I just listened and went with what was being played, not with what I wanted to hear. Again more on the tones and spirit rather than technique. I rolled with it and just freestyled, again feeling like I am doing musical push hands. Listen, Stick and flow with the energy/notes. It was good practice for me. The more I play, the better I will get, everything is practice, everything is Cha’n. Once again everyone was surprised when I whipped out the shakuhachi. LoL! Then one last song I took up the guitar again. I had been trying to avoid doing a blues but it was that time now. My first song was Besame Mucho, then the medium speed instrumental Shakuhachi freestyle. Now, something a little funky yet simple. It felt to me a little empty without my Harps but …yup I rolled with it. By now my fingers had warmed up and I was feeling more comfortable on the guitar now. It was like driving a new route not quite sure where you are, but then recollection kicks in and you are like, oh yeah I am close to home.

Again it went over well. I stopped and the next act to come on. Being mostly unprepared, but always ready, things went over ok. I wish I had known I was expected to perform, I could have prepared better. I watched the next two acts, then it was over. I made ready to leave. After a few chit chats, in Japanese, always scary. I made my way out the door. Outside my friend gave me money for coming!! I was shocked and tried to refuse, but he insisted, after three times I yield. At that point, a friend of his comes over. She is an English teacher so we chat a little before I head off to catch my train. So, new contacts, meetups, got paid, got lunch, it was a good day! I brought dinner home! Amitoufo _/|\_

 

 

The piglet session ….2019

 

The first Kobe Jam session… 2019

 
Wow, seems like not that long ago it was 1999, my life was completely different but kind of the same. Now 2019, I was invited to a new year jam session, by a friend. The first musician I met when I arrived in Japan and was just stepping out. This was out in Kobe area. Which was where originally I would have liked to live. I’d not know then as I do now it is a very active music scene. I would have more paying gigs if I lived there and Kung Fu students. But, the cost! 
 
Anyway, the first Jam of the new year was held in a Kobe area music studio, I went to last year, it was crowded. A good mix of gaijin and natives. This year a little fewer people, still a bunch, but more manageable size. Still, there was food, and a lot of drinks and stuff. Some were already made, some was being made on the spot. This year the Stage was half the room, instead of squeezing the band in a corner so much. There were about 20 people there when I arrived.
Things were already going. It was different music and people than I expected. I hooked up with a few old peeps of mine. We went and chatted a bit and I slowly worked my way into the scene. I was called for next up to go live. It was a good thing I got the warning, it took me a while to get unpacked to play. I had planned on staying the night so I was really packed, along with stuff for the party, all strapped on a cart. Easier than lugging it all on my back and shoulders.
 
I saw a few more people who I knew as I made ready. I played along with the band to warm up on my harp. I kept getting pushed to go up and join, but no, I did not want to, not yet. Ok next up my turn. What had been before was sort of a rock blues. Then there were four of us, picked, we set up. We never played together or knew each other. We worked it out that one guitarist was going to sing and start with the first song, he wanted slow blues. I just played bass, as it was not a key for my harps. It went well it was rough in spots but that is to be expected. It makes it part of the liveness of Jamming. My turn, I tell the guys the format. Lucky they understood enough English. We had at it, a funky mid speed jazzy blues. It was different from all before. It changed the vibe of the room. Not in a bad way, more in a laid-back tap your foot nod your head, have a sip of a drink kind of way. The vibe felt comfortable and
I felt that way as well. I felt no need to rush just let the groove happen. We ended, fairly well and got a lot of yays! It was that kind of crowded though, loose. We mulled about a bit seeing if we were finished or not. Ok, I say let’s do one more since no one was coming to replace us. I pick a slow blues, we pull it off well and leave the stage area.
 
The next group is up with a drummer, who I know, we played together sometimes. He always takes pictures and sends me some. I grab a seat in front and take some shots. I another friend comes over and she shows me a plate with food it. She explains about it being a vegetarian quesadilla. It was being made by two women she turns and points to at the nearby table. They smile, we smile. I say I will go get one in a bit, (as I was trying to take pictures,) she says this one is for you. Thanks, I say and take a bite. It was good! I Munch down on it whilst taking a few pictures. I went back for seconds, this time as I took my seat the band started playing an old Rock Roll by the Stones. Three of my friends sitting next to me on the front row had a mic and were doing background vocals, I joined adding another harmony. I had not been drinking much for a long time. The glass of wine was good and I was feeling quite comfortable. We had fun on a couple of songs.
 
 
The rest of the evening others played, and switched, I was called up again to play bass, but another player who had not played went up. I changed over to vocals and harmonica for the rest of the evening. I was surprised I was really the only Harp player there. My lip I felt like it was getting sore by the time we stopped and people slowly left. It was a fun evening. It is rare for me to be to hang-out with other foreigners and chat in mostly English. It was a nice change.
 
There ended up being four of us guys who spent the night. I think it was three last year. Anyway, we chatted for a short while after everyone left, before turning in. We had futons and rugs to sleep on. The unit space is not set up for sleeping, it is set up to be a band rehearsal and misc room, with a small kitchenette and bathroom.
I did not get much sleep. Uncomfortable, sort of chilly, but mostly the snoring of the other guys. First one, then two, the third joined. It was an oddly rhythmic merge of sounds. I took it as sort of meditation practice, just to lay there, an listen, then not listen, just to lay. Somewhere around 4:30 I got a little sleep. I know so because I was woken by someone’s alarm to get up about 5:00 am to catch the train. I had no need to rise that early. I had the day off and a pass from the house Shacho to hang out. She was going to work that day. I would be home alone when I arrived.
 
I had a little bit more light sleep, before getting up, just after my host. I casually made my way home. It was a good musical start to the new year. It felt like a blessing…Amitoufo
 

Festivus…2018


Holiday Jams

 
This is not the kind of Jam you eat, it is the kind you dig, dig?
 
I was asked to fill in with a band at a session at Chicago Rock, by a friend who plays keyboard in a couple of groups I am with. The regular harp player and the bass player could not make it to the gig. So I was. Invited. There would be no rehearsal, just pick a couple of simple songs to do, which we would test out just before the show. Ok, not a big deal, we just do something simple and listen to each other as we play. Listening to the others is Key. Something Matsuo with the blues band did not do well. Anyway. It was loose and fun, we pulled it off like we had played together a lot. The club master ( it was his project this band) asked me to join them again on a later date in January. We will do a trio, the keyboard player was busy so it will just be three of us, drum, guitar bass. It will be my first time with a group where no one speaks any English. LoL it will be interesting, but not that difficult I do not believe. Just some simple blues songs again. The guitar player is good and entertaining as the lead man. I will not have to do much other than just do my thing.
 
I came across a post by a friend who I have played with on several occasions. He and the Iyo band were playing at Snafkin the past Sat night gone. IYo-San is my favorite sax player, she has a jazz band I have sat-in with them before. Always fun. I decided to stop by the cafe and hear the group. I figured they would ask me to play something, so I figure to use the chance to try out my Shakuhachis. I took the 2.0 and the new bamboo hybrid 1.8.
I arrived after they had started. When I entered it was announced by Iyo-San. I was shocked to get applause just for showing up. I took a seat and relaxed into the music. Which was mostly Christmas stuff. They played one modern piece, upbeat and funky. I was asked as were a couple of others to join in. I said I did not bring anything, thy aid, said sing then. Ok, I joined and did a bit of scaring along. It was fun.
After a while, it was time to wrap up the show. They asked if I would do a song, what did I want? Piano, guitar, bass? I said let’s try an experiment, I have my Shakuhachi. I heard the sound of surprise form a couple of people who were listening. Ok, I gave the bass player a pattern I wanted and key, the keyboard player had done the song with me before, so I was not concerned. It was going to be loose which was ok. We started, had some issues with the mic and my Shakuhachi but I worked it out. I could not get the volume I wanted but made do. Also some small issues with a few notes but nothing to be concerned about. Overall it was loose, funky, and fun. We had a good time on the song. It was a learning experience for me. A live test with a band and the Shakuhachi. I just played the one song. Learned I really need a mic or amplification system just for the Shakuhachi. I ordered later a clip on mic holder so I can put a second mic on the voice mic stand I use, this new one I can mount lower. I also learned if I am going to play seriously I need to bring my own mic and a little amp to play through. That way I am covered by bringing my own sound system. I have been slowly putting that together of just such a thing. I have a small portable bass amp that is battery operated, easy to use and some small effects are built in. So I can add a bit of reverb to the mic and that is just on my mic, not the whole system. I also have a mic so adding just the clamp on mic holder is easy then good to go. A strap on mic to the Shakuhachi would be better, but they are costly. For the amount of using I will get, that I can foresee, it is not worth the cash outlay. So the session was fun and educational. I can work the Shakuhachi into some Blues jams, the Shakuhachi from Ota Sensei I have will work! I just need some better amplification…and more practice.
An added plus from this session is I was invited to come to another open session with many old friends attending, next month. It should be fun and something to look forward to attending.
 
There was suppose to be a Sieki band practice up next on my schedule, however, it was canceled. I found out about it on my way to rehearsal. Good thing I was going to contact them to say I was running late when I found it there was nothing none. Some error cause me to get the notice late. Not really a big deal, just some time lost.
 
Next up is the monthly blues Jam in Kobe. Rarely go, it is too far. Since I had some other reasons to be out there I attended. I also arranged to meet a couple of friends there who live in the area. It is a 2-hour train ride from my home, so I like to make the trip worthwhile. Also, I need to catch a train in time to get back before the pumpkin hour. I arrived a little later than I planned but still in time to use the happy hour for food and a drink. I was spotted by one set of friends. A sailing friend from Team BLISS the sailing friends. A bit of chatting then another friend spots me, the drummer form the old blues band. I had also contacted him about coming by, we still jam together sometime. He got to talking with my other friend and joined us. Meanwhile, we are both called up to play. I notice they are short on musicians tonight. Usually, there are more musicians to play than there are customers to enjoy. Tonight was different. After I insisted that I eat first I went up afterward and did a couple of songs, playing Ba and singing. I had gone up on stage earlier and played the harp and sang a bit when I first arrived and after ordering my food. At this point I was spotted by another couple of friends, I had arranged to meet there. I had not seen them in several years, so a quick chat then back to, my food before going back on stage. Usually, I get to play a couple of songs then I am done because I have to leave and there are many others playing. Tonight different I played Manabe six songs before I had to catch the pumpkin train back home.
It was a fun night chatting with misc friends, in English and playing a lot more than planned. It was a good night!
 
The next stop on this music train. Chicago Rock with the Seiki band. After several issues, with sickness, broken bones, hurt feeling, it was show night. I was not expecting much of a turn out. The weather during the day was pretty sucky. There was another band playing as well so that would be a larger split afterwards.
I arrive on time and went in, we got setup and did a small practice sound check. It was well. As I was waiting for our turn to start, we were the second band. A couple I meet on the plane back from the states came to the club. It was a big surprise. This was the second time they have shown up for a show. This time they brought along their son. They speak English but spoke in Japanese. They took a seat and waited and watched the opening band. A very short while later another friend showed up. I friend from Kyudo, the shrine school. She had said maybe she could come but never said if she would or not, or followed through with my question about her job. So I was very surprised to see her.
After a short while, we were up. The mainliners for the evening. There was a fair amount of people, but it does not take much to fill TheRock it is very small. We played without issue. Some songs went very smooth, others went ok smooth. Nothing was really poor. Overall we did well. I usually keep an eye on the watchers. Seeing if they are nodding or tapping to the beat to judge. My friend showed nothing, I could not read if she was enjoying or not. No foot tap, no head nod, a cool number she is. Overall people seem to enjoy. With Americans you can tell if they are enjoying, no question, with Japanese… not so easy, except the drink ones 🙂
 
Our final song, the encore, which was clapped on by the last band, as we did to them, was pulled out of the hand, by me. Not one we usually do. The singer and harp player from the first band joined us for this song. He sang some. I was glad he did not play harmonica because his playing is hard to listen to for me. We shared singing and I played harp and bass as normal. It was a good session, people gave congrats afterward.
 
It was a good evening, I took a few pictures with friends before bounding out the door to catch my pumpkin train.
 
That was a wrap on the Christmas sessions. I have a New year, jam session coming this weekend, it is very very loose more of a party, potluck than an official Jam, although that will differently be happening as most attending are musicians and we will be in a rehearsal studio of my friend. The nice part here is I will crash over at the studio so I can stay and hang out without turning into a walking home pumpkin.
 
For now, it is preparing for the New Year, cleaning house, organizing, etc. the Kyudo 108 ya is upcoming on New Year eve. I was expecting and hoping to hear about the New Year shooting at the shrine dojo, but no invite has been forthcoming so. I will write that off for this year and go back to my solo New Year Kyudo 108 ya ritual.
 
Oh ohhhh I forgot there is one more jam tonight @ Chicago Rock. I suppose though it is an end of the year Jam rather than a Christmas. Not that it matters. It is in a few hours. I am still mulling over the idea of going or not going…it is always good to be seen and recognized..good PR even among just musicians.
 
Well, I caved on the idea.
I was dressed and walking to the train station when I changed my mind. Doubtful if it matters, and I did not commit to attending. C’est la vie, my zensence said no.
I will stay in a practice Shakuhachi and chill in general, on this cold windy night. This makes the minister of finance, happy because I am not spending money. I have only maybe two or three work days before the job is over for the winter. For me it will be cut back on travel and spend time doing at home study. Reduce spending, increase knowledge. Tomorrow is house cleaning for the new year and the Un-party New Year’s dinner with my in-laws. How fortunate that we get along well…Amitoufo

Shakuhachi pilgrimages : Cambodia /pt 1

 

Have flute, will travel: Siem Reap pt-1

One of the places I wanted to visit was Siem Reap, Cambodia. The once largest city in the world, Angkor Wat always seemed interesting from a historical standpoint. I loved history in school except remembering dates for a test. I digress
Later I found out about the Buddhist aspect of the place, and I grew a larger interest. From a photography viewpoint as well, always was interesting. 
In our conversations about travel, my wife and I agreed on Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia. For me it is a nice thought, but for she makes it real. We went to Vietnam Nam, now it was arranged and we were off to Cambodia. She says we are getting older, we need to do this now while we can. She is right, as are all women, all the time!
Continuing, we set off for a five-day adventure. We were booked at one hotel for two days another for three nights. She had a deal going. My focus on the trip was the Angkor Wat complex and some food. Her’s was food and chilling. I would do the temple exploring on my own.
We traveled on Vietnam air. It was a pleasant flight and got served food and drinks, like in the old days of flying. The only problem we had, was changing flights. There was no clear marker for changing flights in Vietnam. So we just followed the sign that said all passengers this way. We end up at immigration. My wife was able to get entry, but I was not without a visit, being a US passport holder. This caused some issue being understood I did not want I into Vietnam. My wife was already cleared and stamped. She had to get that canceled. Then we were told to go to another window, that line was slow, my was becoming antsy and asked someone else. We were again in the wrong line, just go through these doors and up the steps. Ok, we rushed. Now at security, again. Wife starts to panic, tells some official, person we will miss our plane, not our fault, blah blah, we get sent to the front of the line and mark the plane easy. Whew, now we (she) can relax.
Day 1
We arrived early evening at the hotel, after checking in, I take a walk around the hood to explore. and scout. Mission successful I return with a good Idea of where we are and how to get around to the main drag. Then settled in for the night. There was some couple of hours difference in time from Japan, which is later.
Day 2 
I mostly I stayed in the room, after a brief outing of hunting and gathering after renting a bike. I stayed on our balcony, ate happy pizza and played shakuhachi with the birds. Perhaps the second coolest part of the trip. I was surprised at the variety of different bird songs. I record some of the sound of them singing. I tried to copy, or ad-lib with them. The weather was perfect! For some reason no mosquitos! Perfect! Our balcony was perfect, private, yet I could see. It was a small pleasure yet held great joy and gratitude…Amitoufo
Day 3
For a large part of the day, at least the morning, again after the breakfast buffet, I stayed and practiced on the balcony. We were supposed to change hotels at noon and I was to be picked up for a horseback ride. This I just happened to find online. The ride was a three-hour tour. LoL. Through the countryside and a few villages, and up to a temple.
A tuk-tuk driver sent by the stables picked me up at the hotel. Handy. After a small mixup about who and where I was, we were off. I arrived at the stable after a short ride through the countryside. The driver aid he would come back for me. Great I said.
I went to the office and checked in. The stables were large and clean. As I was filling out my paperwork, some other people showed up. I thought they were coming to be with me. However, once I checked in, I got a guide and a horse, and we were off, after asking if I was comfortable he saw I knew how to ride. My horse was named Mexico. He did not want to go. He had to be pulled at first. My guide said, Mexico is lazy but he is a good horse. I laughed. We started pretty slow. The guide wanting to chat some as we rode. Which has hard because of the distance. Mexico had his own pace and distance he wanted.
We rode through the rice fields, along with lotus ponds and through several small villages. Poor people but seemed happy. The kids, if one yelled hello, they all would copy when they saw me. Houses on poles, sometimes you could see beds outside beneath the house, Kids, fishing in dirty water. It was kind of sad. I had a lot of imagined thoughts of being in the war there and Vietnam. Sad, scary, and blessed I did not have to go, even with no bone spurs. However, right now, I was blessed to ride a horse through the countryside with no worries about bullets or bombs, or traps… Amitoufo.
I was there taking pictures with my smartphone from horseback. I had a little hand camera but I’d not think to use it at the time. Oh well. I would have like to have gotten a shot of the villagers that looked amazed to see someone as dark as them riding horseback through the village. They waved and pointed. I gave them the traditional Buddhist gassho. They got a thrill from that, laughing and returned the bow. I wish I had a photo shot of them. Overall the trip through the villages remind me of deep Mexico, but greener. One thing I noticed in Mexico different was the number of musicians, there was a lot! Not in Cambodia. I only saw a couple. More on that later. Another common thing I noticed beside the poor factor that was in Mexico if they play recorded music at home, It is usually loud. Some of there’s house in the countryside was like that. LOUD music. I do not know if it was because of the festival, holiday, that was just ending or what? I saw some stores in town that sold A LOT of BIG speakers. I thought they were for clubs, but they are home use!
 
Back to the ride. So my impression of the countryside was it is like all poor places. Hawaii, Mexico, Malaysia, Vietnam, American Native reservations, poor is poor. Everyone does what they need to live, with what they are dealt. People are people. Even with torn or no clothes, the children play. The kids on the route were cute. The farmlands were nice to ride through, although the waterways are filled with dark water in many places. It was not as “jungle” as I thought. I would call the wooded landscape more forest like than jungle.
 
We arrive at a temple. It could not enter because I had no pass. However, I did get a few pictures outside of the temple. For my shakuhachi pilgrimage photo collection.
We returned to the stable just at dark. It was well time, there were a few times we brought the horses up to a trot. It was hard on my privates, the bouncing. I was ok just at a walking pace, but we needed to get back, I guess on time.
My TukTuk driver was waiting. He was a good guy and his English was good. I made arrangements with him to give us a ride the next day, to the massage place my wife wanted to visit. Also to a vegetarian restaurant I want to visit. The food was only so-so. Tawain rules as far a veggie food go! Another reason to return for me. There is a Kyudo seminar there. If I could return to Taiwan for a Kyudo, Chan, Eating, jam session Iw ould be quite pleased. But I digress.
Day 4
For the most part, I hung out in the room and practiced. That to me was fun and pleasure. My wife spent most of the day poolside. Later we went to get a Khmer massage. The woman I got was strong, bigger than some of the others I saw. She asked if I wanted soft, med or hard. I said hard thinking, she was not to be that strong. I was wrong. It was quite painful! She knew how to use her weight and bones. Reminds me of a Kyudo saying ” shooting is done not with the hands, but with the bones.” At least on my legs, painful! My back and shoulders were fine, but man she brought pain to my legs. The next day I was sore from her treatment. I had a spot to practice TaiChi and some Fu, boy oh boy, some stances hurt hurt hurt from her. I rolled with the pain while under her hands, thinking, ok this is training. I am Shaolin. Yosh!
Day 5
Ankour Wat …to be continued.