吹禅 – Birth of a Komuso


A Komuso is born…

 
It had been my plan for a while to do some type of shakuhachi pilgrimage every year. The anniversary of my formal shakuhachi lessons is in April /May, so I am late this year…if doing it on the date matters.
 
I set off fairly early on the pilgrimage. I was nervous, and dressed in a traditional Zen monk’s work clothing a Samue. Even then I was a bit self conscious, no one noticed or cared, they were dressed in western fashion, me the gaijin was dressed in traditional wear. It is an interesting world view.
 
The trip to Nara was simple, and fairly quick. I was traveling ahead of schedule so did not feel rushed at all. I arrived and looked around for a locker to stash my backpack. However even though early the coin lockers at the station were full. Oh well, thanks to my Sempai, I was shown another place that was setup for people to drop off luggage. He had arrived shortly after I did. I found a toilet room and changed into my kimono, after which I put on the borrowed Komuso gear from my Sempai. He had given some basic directions about what to do while wearing the “basket”, theTengai. Do not talk while basket is in place, remove it on the temple grounds, when speaking lifting the basket was ok or taking it off. I found that a bit hard to remember, lift and talk. I forgot many times and thought oops! I rather liked having the basket down, I was anonymous and hidden. A no one, people saw the clothes, and heard the sounds, but me as me not so much. Not the Black guy in Japanese gear. At least in my mind.
 
We started slow, I followed Sempai’s lead. With the Tengai in place I could listen to my playing and his. Not see the people watching, or at the least ignore them better. I was pleasantly surprised we were able to play in harmony. I have heard recording of other Komuso playing and many times the tones do not match. In the Komuso world it is not supposed to matter. My Sensei also told me that in traditional Japanese music it is not about being in tune, harmonically with other players. It is more so with Shakuhachi Komuso Playing. However my musical roots come from a different place. Disharmony of tones can be an accent but not the norm. So, I was told that it did not matter, but to a musician it did. So yeah, not having to fight a tonal discord made it easier to follow the lead of Semapi on his phrasing of the Cho Shi melody. 
 
We played first near the train station, then slowly walked toward the park, stopping every so often. People always took pictures. Being in the basket, I did not care. I was not me, who I was did not matter, what I was doing mattered and I could do it faceless. There is a Kyudo ceremony I have seen that the archer covers his face while shooting. This way it is not about the shooter but the shooting. Here it was not who was sharing the dharma, but the dharma. The Dharma in this case is the musical tones of Cho Shi.
 
Once we reached the park we had our first negative encounter. I was told negative encounters happen. Not always, but they are out there, where there is Yang there is Yin. This is the Tao/Do of life. Sh*t happens! they say in the street.
A security guard or sorts made us the target of his day’s power trip. He basically told us we could not play there on the street in front of the Park. Even though we were not IN the park, it was considered part of the park. At least in his view. Sempai was quite surprised having been doing this for a number of years. Rather than hassle with this “rent-a-cop” on a power trip, we moved on and crossed the street. There was fewer people traffic, but it could not be helped. We walked on.
 
We made several stops to play after that without any further incidents. Our next encounter came from a couple of tourist girls. They said we were Co-playing. Sempai corrected them that we were in fact real priests. He was from a local temple. They were surprised and wanted pictures taken with us and them. The first of several group pictures throughout the day.
 
I noticed most times we stop, there was always a small crowd gathered taking pictures, even as we walked some times, pictures were common. This day much much more than donations. I was not really concerned about the donations, for me it was more about being out there. Playing and doing the practice. Turning inward and doing the song under the “Tengai” got easier as the day went on. I could block out, the photo ops crowds and just play. A couple of times a few people would get really really close like they were trying to see inside. Perhaps Chinese tourist, they are not known here for being subtle. I rolled with it. When you stand in the wind, you have to expect something to get in your eye.
 
One of the more difficult parts was walking and playing. That became a real challenge. There was the timing of the song, the musician me was concerned about the rhythm of walking and the playing of the song, the martial artist me was concerned about the rhythm of the breath while walking and playing. Should everything match? Meanwhile my Tengai was slipping down over my head and covering my eyes, and other parts of my Kumoso wear needed constant adjustments from slipping. Add to that some knee discomfort and foot discomfort. As with sitting Zen there was more to it than meets the eye. It is not Just sitting, it is not just playing, one as to over come distractions, internal and external. One can not attach to the distractions, one just does the practice.
 
I noticed during our travels, the different reactions to us. Tourist took pictures, kids pointed and had kid reactions, some just ignored us. Some of the older Japanese surprised me with their reverence. They would stop and bow. That was to me touching, not seeing me, but the spirit I represented.
 
One older man spoke with Semapi upon hearing us play. He said the sounds returned him to his childhood during the war. There was a legless Shakuhachi player in his town. He wanted to learn from him. However the cripple said he ( the kid) did not want to go on this path (of suffering/sadness? ). Later he was able to take lessons, but had not played in many many years. He said the spirit that we conveyed was beyond and more important than not being Japanese. I found that comforting.
 
In most of the tales about Komuso, it is about them wandering around playing. However it seemed the playing was about and for their enlightenment or money. They did not really do Buddhist Priest type of things. When I see and have donated to other Priest on the street they give some type of blessing to the giver. I was told when receiving a donation as Komuso, one bows and keeps playing or restarts the Cho Shi song. After the day was over, Sempai said to me, the donations you received it would be good when you got home to put it in your sacred spot and say a pray or chant over it to honor/bless those who gave. For me that struck a good cord and really gave a purpose to the collections outside of self to buy lunch or the train ticket. It was also doing something as a priest since I do not belong to a temple here or do outside charity work, here in Japan. I have not seen much of other Komusos other than for special events, so this to me gives meaning to being a Zen Priest. Something to support my vows.
 
Overall it was an educational and enjoyable experience. I enjoyed having a spiritual outlet for playing and being a “Ronin” priest. I have decided to do more of this and make it a part of my Lohan Chan practice. Even if nothing happens via teaching Budo and sharing dharma that way, there is this musical dharma outlet, that is not just me playing for self enlightenment. The Modern street Komuso playing touches people, more so the elders, perhaps they need it more these days. Perhaps also praying over the donations adds positive energy to the world conditions. Maybe on some level eases someone’s suffering… even if just in their or my head having a Priest pray.
 
 
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Sakai Blues festival


Blues in Sakai

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

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

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

Completion …Art tools as Art within Art


The forces are balanced, the water boils properly; but if the pot is too full and boils over, it puts out the fire. On the other hand, if the fire is too hot for too long, it can evaporate all the water. In maintaining the equilibrium that follows the completion of an arduous task, forces at work in the situation must be monitored carefully to ensure that a proper balance is maintained. The state of After Completion is a time for fine-tuning, for refinements and embellishments of what has been accomplished

…I-Ching #63



Things are coming together. Yoshiko the Bass, is doing well. All cleaned up she is great.  The day after she came back from the shop the parts I ordered came in . Gold plated tuning pegs and volume/tone adjust knobs. It adds some nice bling, but understated. It goes goes with the dark wood. Now I feel like it is “MY AXE”, my Bass!



Another, I have been waiting for item arrived yesterday, my Ya from the shop. Earlier than I expected, that is always nice. NOW they are perfect as I had in my mind. I wanted for a long to time get these ya, then when I got them , last year, they did not get part of the work correct. So every time I used them I was reminded, this is unfinished, this is not how/what I wanted, I am still waiting. I used a pair tonight at practice, and yeah it is pretty superficial to trip on a small thing like a color scheme, or a pattern. Yet each fleeting glimpse of beauty observed, yet un-named is a bit of Zen, and in itself a practice. Observe, Absorb, Release. See the flower, breath the scent, move on. Also, there is no mistaking mine at a large event in a barrel.

I had been giving some thought to my fixation with the bass and the ya. Besides being tools of my passions, I think a combination of things, I am self analyzing. It has been over three years since we lost almost everything with the Boat, the bankruptcy the year before that, the lost of the condo, job, etc, in the years just before that. People giving us stuff to start over since arriving. It has been a while since I have had something of mine, as I want it, even then it has been a bit of a hustle involved. We still have basically very little and own almost nothing. For real nothing expensive. It is ok, we have what we need and a little extra and health, life is good. I will most likely not have a Car, motorcycle, boat, condo, or well-paying job again. Not to put a jinx on myself, but reality is the mind of Zen. Under my present conditions, without some major changes anyway, yeah, so whatever treats I am blessed with these days is a big deal. Life owes us nothing and is not fair. All we can do is take another step and be thankful for the foot to do so.

 
I was inspired by the newness of my tools, to take some pictures. Another plus for the new tools is artist inspiration joy is where you find/make it. 
 
Tools of Art, as Art, art within Art…

The Bass Story – final

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

So I highly recommend Guitars Fact.Kawanaka

 

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


Recital in Toyanaka

 
Another day another recital. Sensei had given me info on another teacher’s student recital. The teacher, Ishikawa Toshimitsu famous, in Japan. His teacher Ksuya Yokohama was more famous! My sensei told me tonight at class he could make the introduction for me to study with him…at a later time. As my skill as still somewhat low. apparently the honkyuko songs are his specialty.
 
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It required a bit of a travel to reach Toyanaka, however lucky it was not expensive. All local trains, then just a short walk to the venue. About three minutes, unless you get lost like I did I took sometime thinking about it. I only decided to do so the day before. I figured, hmmm ok, someplace I have not been, listening to different people who are not masters, my peers and sempai. It will give me some idea of where I am at. I have only met my one other sempai. Another thing about this recital it will be all HONKYOKU music. Just for Shakuhachi. I have only I believe heard one or two. Over the course of my appreciation for the instrument I am sure a lot , but now I know what I am listening to.
 
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It was nice it did not start until 2:00 pm . I did not have to leave the house until 11:20. Even then I had a casual trip. I did get lost trying to follow the google map LZ had setup on my phone so I would not get lost. My first time using it, and did badly. oh well. I made it. I arrived as one student was playing, I believe the same song I did for my recital. It was interesting hearing another amateur play it.
 
There were a fair amount of people there. Most of them students, most of them in my age group and older. No one seemed surprised to see me. I thought I was the only foreigner there, but when I was leaving I saw a guy who looked, East Indian. I did not get a clean look. I was also quite surprised when one guy, a Japanese came over and started talking to me. First in Japanese then in English, which he said he learned in High school. Very casual normal stuff and short.
 
 
 
The performance itself was good. Some very good, some so so good. I was surprised to see several of the player were blind. The sensei told of each player’s or most of them’s “dan” . I heard Shodan and Na na Dan several times. It was a worthwhile experience to go, educational.
 
 
 
The area of Toyamaka was not pretty or interesting at all. Now I know. 
 
Picture/videos link here. Videos are still being uploaded, ( not-easily ) so if you go look, stop back a couple times if you want to see the vids. Most of the vids (songs) are just short bits. Only a couple are full lengthThe pictures are nothing other than just a markers for FB and such :-). It is all about the music.

The Bass Story / prt 2


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

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

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

It is all about the money…a Bass story


It is all about the money…

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


Whewww, glad that is done…
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I was off, it was to be a full day with Kyudo, stuff, Guitar, and Shakuhachi in hand I head out…
It finally here the day I wanted to get over with.
It felt more like taking a test than doing a recital. I have a good grasp on most of the song, but not all the small parts. It was requested that I should memorize the song not read it. Hmmm, ok. I figured out why I am having trouble memorizing this song. Beside me getting old, so many things with just my playing , then to add memorizing …it is a lot for something that is new. 
 
Anyway, no matter. I had it down enough that only those who knew the song, would know I am not playing it “true”, There were other people there beside shakuhachi students. In fact mostly koto students and shamisen. This is what I was lead to believe…it was mostly right.
 
So, anyway, i wanted this over with that was part of it. It would be my first real playing live. I did play a section at my Ordination , but this was the whole song, in front of Japanese strangers, musicians. The “musicians” is the key in this case…peers.
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Also there was the requests from my Sensei to play a couple of other songs with him. One of which I was to sing. I am not sure why I dislike doing that song. That part was not fun , but the other song playing with Sensei was harder, and I did not have the time to practice it. So my guitar work was expected to be poor..It was! Embarrassing to me, maybe they did not care or even notice. I did, Sensei , hmmm, not sure. My timing was there but some notes and cords, where funky (sour) to me.
 
The day started early for me, even though the event was not until 2:00 pm. It was a 90 min train ride about. However since I had a stop to make i left earlier than needed. I was stopping by the Kyudo shop. I wanted my ya fixed. It has been a small thing, but the coloring design has not been right since I got the new Ya. Since the shop was on my way to the recital house it was a perfect time to stop. Finally, I can get that behind me. It is a very small thing , but it irks me everything I use the Ya. I am still attached to the vision of how they are suppose to look. No one cares but me, but it is part of my small joy of if not shooting well, at least looking good whilst shooting bad. 🙂
 
That part of the trip went well. I hope the guy understood !? It will take a month for it to be done. I guess their shop stays pretty busy for custom work. Or something. It took a month for me to get the original set. Hmmm maybe he said a week?! Or well. Not a rush anyway. So just wait, mode engaged. I have my everyday Ya to use anyway and I am not going to shinsa next month. Speaking if which, I went into practice on Sat night expecting quiet and aloneness to practice with my new-to-me winter kimono. Wrong wrong wrong, ran into a a big practice session with several Senseis had to join. Anyway, alway good, to learn something.
 
Yeah, after the Kyudo shop, a quick stop at Subway for a sandwich. That is one of the few things I miss about the states is the mixture of foods I can get. I would love to find a falafel shop. Yummm. Anyway. i got my usual. Flat bread, avo, cheese, all the veggies, with basil sauce. It was good! Then onward to the recital. We were to have a meal afterward but that would not be until 4:30 , it started at 2:00.
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I got on the train and headed to the house of the Koto Sensei where the event was to be held. It was almost to where we used to live when we first arrived and stayed with my Mother-in-law. I made it to the home with no problem, by following the map and a little common sense. My Sense had not arrived yet. There was a Sempai of mine their, I had met before. The rest were a bunch people I did not know. But it was ok, they were all pleasant and tried to be helpful to me, with my limited Japanese. Pretty soon , everyone was there , except for my Sensei. He was not late but it was close when he arrived.
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Once he was there we started. He was the MC it turns out. So he did the speaking. He started off with a small talk introduction of the players for the day and then began with his first song. I was to be next. Great, following the master!! Another reason to be nervous! Just Great! Ok, my turn. I took my music chart just in case. I put it on the stand , but not right in front of me. Just to the side, I could look over if I needed, but for the most part I would have my eyes closed and just play from memory. If I mess up, I just mess up. I will keep going. One thing I learn from playing so long live, just keep going, the mistake does not really standout until the player makes it so. I would keep rolling, and sure enough I got a part or two mixed up. Only my Sensei and maybe his sempai who was there noticed. Afterward, sensei said I passed, I did well. Most people fail to get notes out. I was able to play through-out. I think I also got an approval from his sempai. Although he did not say so to me, they were talking about me. I would get pulled into parts of it. It seemed positive. So I guess I had Shakuhachi Shinsa of sorts.
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The rest of the show was interesting, all traditional Japanese songs. Solo, duo, trio. Cool stuff. No young people in the event, all oldsters like me and older. Sensei told me there is a big event next week, where there are many players semi-pro and pro. I am guessing a mix of ages. Maybe I will go, for some inspiration or something.
 
I am to start a new Honkyoku song, called “Tamuke 手向.”. These are traditional “spiritual” shakuhachi songs. They seem fairly long and complex. Perhaps these are the ones sensei is picking out for me as a teaching path. He says we will be working on this next song of, which the name I do not recall, through the summer and into the fall…
Wow, long time for one song. It does not matter, I have no rush plans on what I learn or pressure to stop. I am just learning and will apply when ready. As for stopping, the universe will determine that. I will continue to play until I can not. Lessons may need to be adjusted due to conditions, but the playing does not stop. 
It just surprised from doing modern western songs. I never really studied classical music in-depth to compare. I will guess there is a mixture like in western music. There is a another honkyoku I am working on to play with the Nara Monk this spring, which I find short and fairly simple after what I have been learning. Which brings me to the thought Sensei is selecting complex works to use as a teaching tool, not so much for the music or to just learn another song. Like in Kung Fu the principal behind the technique is the important part. The soul essence. Understanding that, rather than the physical act at the applied moment is the pearl. Once you own it you can adapt it and needed.
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It is kind of nice studying with this shakuhachi sensei he is somewhat of a rebel, besides the greatness of him speaking English. As a rebel he does not give ranks (dans) to his students. That is still a practice in many schools with. A traditional background. One gets a Dan and also pays more with each Dan for classes. I do not really need a Dan, I have no plans to teach.
 
So now onward. New song, new adventure, new area of learning…yosh!
 
.more pix and vid here
 
 
 

吹禅 – Sounds -n- passage


Sounds and passage…I have a Shakuhachi recital coming up in a couple of weeks. Not really nervous , but somewhat, i do not know what the word. Is for the middle state. Not quite, but sort of…what ever
 
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It is has been almost two years since I took up formal practice. It has been an interesting journey. This recital sort of put me on a different level. If I was in a formal traditional school I would get a dan, and a raise in class cost. Thankfully I am not, but still this is like a my first passage, the student recital. I have been asked to not only do a song on the shakuhachi as a class thing, but do another song, sing, while sensei plays Shakuhachi. Yeah, my way again. I sort of mind, but not really. I wasp also asked to do another song. I have decided to do a version of Summertime for Shakuhachi drum and shamisen, I have been working on. Sensei there will be shamisen players there. I can show them, him , her what I want. If will be fun he says….food will be served. About 20 people. Shakuhachi, Shamisen, and Koto Instruments. I think it will be interesting. I maybe even meet someone to pay with.
 
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Shakuhachi, is an interesting pursuit. I have been giving some thought to the study and practice of it. From both a musical point and a spiritual point. I have been reading a book called “The Sound of Bamboo” a lot of the standard stuff. Also a decent section on Shakuhachi, Zen and meditation. The author compared Buddhist practice and principles with the playing of the Shakuhachi. One of the more interesting parts of the read was about the breath, meditation and playing , as well as doing chanting. Breath is the key thing here. I thought it would be more the tones of the music, but seems to be in the breath. As for music itself , perhaps the formlessness of the music and the non-music rather than the notes, but the shaping of the tones also is added to the act. For as the sound is shaped the un-sound is also shaped.
Back to the breath itself. It seems to me the breath, the use of the breath is like doing Qi Gong. How it is developed, controlled…yeah, playing Shakuhachi is like doing Qi Gong or chanting before meditation…
I can see this scenario. Stretch – shakuhachi – zazen – tai chi walk – shakuhachi – zazen. That would be a balanced meditation session.
Another interesting little bit I found out from reading and then confirmed with my Sensei is that Osaka area has more Tozan players than Kinko. Kinko is more popular in the North , like Tokyo. My sensei staid he started with Tozan and changed to Kinko. Kinko is the older style. It is liked to the Komuso and has a much deeper history. I am glad I found the Kinko style. A Kyudo sempai plays Tozan style, he plays well, but does all modern songs, none of the traditional stuff.
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As far as my own playing, again the timing here is interesting when looked at the gestalt of the situation. I am not confident playing, but, I am to that point I would go out there in public, within a certain parameter. As said I have been working on the “summertime” time song, not only from the point of doing it at the recital but also at Snafkin. I still have a long ways to go before being good , but I think for now I can do some pass-able things.
 
I am working on my second Honkyoku song. These are like standard of Shakuhachi music. Komuso stuff, with history. So I was given by a helpful spirit “Cho Shi”. A standard Honkyoku song done by the Komuso monks. I was offered help learning it. I have started on my own to get things, rolling since I was given the music chart. I am still pretty tied up with learning the first honkyoku by heart for the recital It is my plan to learn this so go play this spring in Nara. I said this already right?! I will not repeat.
 
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So, that makes two traditional songs, plus my Sensei is going to be starting me on another song soon, bring up to three. I heard somewhere some students spend years just on that. I am not sure what I want to do with this, other than play well. Some learn with the intent of teaching, or becoming a pro. I do not have that. I would like to use it as a Buddhist tool, as well as a modern musical tool. I want the whole coin not just one side.
 
This point for this spring is I will be meeting with a master Shakuhachi maker, on making a purchase from him. This will be a big deal. All this in the Spring of my second year.

 

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And the beat goes on…Jan 2017

I got a note from a friend asking if myself and the band, wanted to do a few opening numbers for his band at a foreigners club in Kobe. It is not really a “Gaijin” club, but it is.anyway, I said I would check. The Doc of course wanted to, the drummer after a bit also wanted to. So I put the wheels in motion. I also planned the song list and figured I would do most of the singing as that is the way it usually rolls. I also figured since I was doing all this the band should go under another name, since I was asked-by my friend, what was the band name? I said “Blues international”, and told the guys. There was No argument.

 
Show night comes, get setup, I hand out the agreed to song list. We get ready and the Doc says, we are doing blah blah to start. I could not believe what he said. This was a song there was some question about even doing , he was asking about. Calmly I said, I just gave you the song list, it says Mustang Sally. He looks at it and goes oh yea! 
We start playing he is having some issues with his guitar or something, besides not standing he is kneeling on the stage mostly. Hmmmmm, he is acting weird I am thinking.
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Ok, his song is up, now he stands and starts talking, Hello, I am doc blah blah, we are called the Matsuo Blues Band. I rolled with it. Next song, he is kneeling again, up and down… my friend gives him a stool, after some talk about him standing and his age. I rolled with it, he is younger than me. Anyway, overall it went well, considering the drummer stopped the wrong place on a song, and lost his beat on another, the doc, I pointed to him for his guitar solo and he missed it. Most of the songs had, really messed up endings. All of which is expected for a bunch of guy not played together since May and had no rehearsal. There were parts were we sounded pretty decent when I heard some of the recorded play back. Oh well, the was no money involved, it was just a shot at playing in. Kobe again at a different club. So yeah, it went ok. I made a note to myself, really try to not do that again with these guys. Not bad guys, but not satisfying to play with. I am not saying I will not ever, I am just saying I will not pursue playing with them.
 
Snafkin
Another friend contacted me. He is a percussionist. I played with him a couple of time before. We met at a show I was doing for Snafkin at the community center. He is nice guy also. However much more professional about his playing. So he was doing a show at Snafkin and asked if I wanted to join in. I said yes of course, thinking it would be the usual jam type after whoever or sit in with Bass. Still I worked on a couple of songs with me playing guitar, just incase, the club master asked me to do a song.
 
So it turns out the show is him, sort of called. Mario live and friends. He invited a bunch of musicians he knew and we all played with him, really he played with us.
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Everyone did a few songs and he played percussion. I was shocked to find I was the second in line to play, and there was just the two of us playing for my song. Ok, so I was prepared. I went into my solo artist mode. I have been giving that some thought for Snafkin anyway. It went ok, not as well as I would have liked, i could have used more practice and I wanted to song in Japanese at least on part of one song. I chickened out, I caved, however the is the Feb. jazz band, I have time to practice more.
 

So Snafkin went over all well. I did a couple of songs, and I played bass on a couple of songs for a guy Mario and I did a show with.

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I was also asked to play bass with another guy on his set. I met a new person, who I got to chat with a bit in English. She lived in the Bay Area for a couple of years with her husband.

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She is a friend of two people I already know that were there performing. I also got to speak a little English with another woman, a piano player, who friended me on FB after she saw me playing at the community center. It was a pleasant evening, meeting new people, seeing familiar ones.

 

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It made me more secure about setting up my own solo and band performance. What I need is someone to play with who is bilingual. Like the Doc but a better musician. That and or step up my Japanese. I got a couple of tips on playing Shamisen (Sanshin), that was cool and helpful. really the only small bummer was I do not get any pictures of my solo acoustic set.

 

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Just one play Bass for another guy I played with before. oh well, not really a big deal. Another nice part to the deal was I got picked up and dropped off at home.