At this year’s Earth Celebration, we will welcome one of Japan’s leading shamisen players, Hiromitsu Agatsuma, to the Shiroyama Concert “Shukusai” on August 19th. Kodo performed with Agatsuma at a concert in May 2011 and we have felt connected ever since. We both play instruments used to “beat a rhythm,” both share Japanese traditions with the world, and we are performers from the same generation. In March this year, Agatsuma came to Sado for preliminary rehearsals for Earth Celebration 2012, and the echoes of our collaborations began to reverberate on Sado. We asked Hiromitsu Agatsuma and our own Tomohiro Mitome to share some of their feelings and experiences with our readers regarding the upcoming collaboration in August. (From Kodo eNews Vol. 31 July 2012)
Contemporary Echoes of Traditions
Shamisen Player Hiromitsu Agatsuma
I knew that it would not be easy for me to jump in and perform with the Kodo members, because they spend their daily lives together, travel together, and create together. I took part in rehearsals with them on Sado Island in March, and of course the music didn’t work perfectly right from the get go. But with time and practice, the taiko and shamisen, both deeply rooted in Japanese culture, began to resonate together naturally and echo in harmony. Of course there are fundamentals that overlap in Japanese instruments in terms of the groove and timing, but I think it was Sado that gave me that certain something… it was the first time in my life I’ve had that feeling. I’m personally really looking forward to spending many more hours on Sado Island with Kodo, and seeing what will come to life from that experience.
At Earth Celebration, I’ve also been given the opportunity to hold a lecture. I plan to talk about my activities to date, my feelings about the attraction and possibilities of the Tsugaru Shamisen and Japanese traditional music. I’ll also do a short performance during the lecture. I am looking forward to seeing you all this summer on Sado Island.
From Kodo Ensemble Leader Tomohiro Mitome
Our rehearsals with Hiromitsu Agatsuma in March were really rewarding. He joined in on the Kodo pieces that we decided to collaborate on, beginning by matching the tone. Then one after the other different melodies would come forth, like using different paints to make all kinds of new colors, strong ones and subtle ones alike. I greatly admire the work and time he put into this, allowing no compromise, to refine the collaborations on traditional pieces.
Shamisen and taiko were both originally instruments used for accompaniments, but over time they have come into the limelight on stage. Mr. Agatsuma has collaborated with people from various genres, and I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of music he will create with Kodo. The heart of our activities, exploring the possibilities of Japanese traditional music, is the same, even though we play different instruments. In the great outdoors on the Shiroyama stage, we want to share that energy with you all.
Hiromitsu Agatsuma was born 1973 in Ibaraki, Japan. He began studying the Tsugaru Shamisen when he was just six years old and went on to win one competition after another, earning him high praise in the traditional Japanese music world. Agatsuma continues to explore both tradition and innovation through the Tsugaru Shamisen. His unique approach to the fusion of Japanese traditional instruments with Western music always receives high acclaim, and his collaborative work with global artists include Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller, and many others.
Hiromitsu Agatsuma Lecture & Demonstration
On the second day of EC, Hiromitsu Agatsuma will hold a lecture and demonstration. It’s a great opportunity to listen to him speak and perform up close.