Kokusai Shakuhachi Kenshu-Kan 30th Anniversary Festival
Yokoyama Katsuya Memorial with the home town Bisei

KSK Shakuhachi Festival 2019




Messages from the Convenors of the Past World Shakuhachi Festivals

  • Riley Lee: Convenor of the 5th World Shakuhachi Festival (2008, Sydney)
    Congratulations for KSK 30th Anniversary

    Congratulations to KSK on their 30th Anniversary! Please accept my sincere apologies for not being able to say so in person.

    Yokoyama Sensei was only able to begin KSK because of the generosity of the Bisei community. What a wonderful town! Yokoyama Sensei also relied on his main students, most of whom I imagine are gathered in Bisei for this celebration. Well done!

    Ultimately, the founding of KSK, now in its fourth decade, was because of Yokoyama Sensei. It is a pity that he is no longer with us physically, though he is surely present in spirit.

    All of the organisers of World Shakuhachi Festivals know how intense these festivals can be. My involvement in the Sydney WSF2008 accorded me a contentment that perhaps only truly arduous endeavours bequeath. I am forever grateful to Yokoyama Sensei and KSK for giving me the opportunity to help organise a World Shakuhachi Festival.

    Anniversaries are times to reflect on past milestones The shakuhachi community is now truly international. World Shakuhachi Festivals have been held in Bisei, Boulder, Tokyo, New York, Sydney, Kyoto and most recently in London. The next WSF will be held in China in 2022, further confirming the international status of the shakuhachi tradition.

    Furthermore, these WSF events continue to embrace ever more shakuhachi lineages, playing styles and philosophies. They have become so much more than KSK. Smaller festivals or camps, all of which are based on the KSK/WSF model, occur regularly throughout the world.

    It could be argued that the main goals of KSK have been reached and even surpassed. Again, congratulations!
    But anniversaries are also moments to assess the present and to look to the future. Many of us, myself included, may not be around in 2038, just as Yokoyama Sensei is not with us today. That doesnft mean that we shouldnft think about the next thirty years. If the main goals of KSK, envisioned three decades ago, have been largely achieved, then it is our task to conceive new goals for the next three decades.

    Where do we want the shakuhachi community to be in 2038? How can we help it get there?

    If only we could ask Yokoyama Sensei! That being impossible, we can only rely on our own varying and probably often conflicting answers. I look forward to being part of that discussion.

    Riley Lee
    23 July 2019
    Manly Australia
  • Kurahashi Yodo: Convenor of the 6th World Shakuhachi Festival (2012, Kyoto)

    Congratulations to KSK on the 30th anniversary of its foundation. It goes without saying that the founder Katsuya Yokoyama and the various staff members have achieved so much for internationally spreading shakuhachi tradition over the past 30 years. Above all, holding the World Shakuhachi Festival (WSF) is a feat that should be noted even in the history of shakuhachi. The history of shakuhachi has changed.

    After the second WSF, it's been hosted by various non-KSK shakuhachi players in the world. I was honored to have been in charge of hosting the sixth WSF in Kyoto as an executive chair in 2012. Kyoto WSF! It was the first time in ten years that Japan hosted a festival, and what's even more was that it was in Kyoto! The difficulty of organizing dified imagination. After due deliberation, I dared to overthrow the conventional style and thoroughly promoted the idea of "WSF in Kyoto." In other words, WSF has been renewed.

    Thanks to everyone involved, the WSF in Kyoto was a great success, and a lot of people patted me on the back with "Congratulations!" However, at the closing ceremony, I felt Yokoyama sensei's presence, even though he wasn't physically there. It was an overwhelming presence that embraced the entire venue.

    Looking back now, I think that my intention to renovate the WSF was actually the intention that Yokoyama sensei communicated with me from on high. I faced the vital spirit with immense power. It was my unforgettable "Yokoyama Experience" that people who believe, believe.

    Kurahashi Yodo
  • Kiku Day: Convenor of the 7th World Shakuhachi Festival (2018, London)
    WSF is the most iconic event in the shakuhachi world, surpassing any other event in scope, history, and breadth. It was a dream come true to bring WSF to Europe last year and thereby to establish Europe as an important part of the shakuhachi world today. Without the vision of Yokoyama Katsuya, a festival that is this welcoming and open towards the amazing variation in and new approaches to shakuhachi playing would not have been possible. And I am deeply indebted and grateful for his remarkable contribution. It has been an honour for me to have had the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Yokoyama Katsuya and the other great players who have organised WSFs in different countries across the world. Here I must point out that while I did have the title Chair of the Executive Committee, I did not rank higher than the other four members of the WSF18 Executive Committee, i. e., Michael Soumei Coxall, Nigel Puttergill, Jim Franklin and Thorsten Knaub - all important members or former members of the European Shakuhachi Society (ESS). In any case, it is my belief that nobody is chosen to be the organiser of a WSF for any specific reason. The people who have organised these large events have offered their service, time, and energy for the global shakuhachi community. To be able to do so is in itself a privilege - especially when doing it together in a good team. However, it is hard work to organise such a big event. I, personally had to walk the Shikoku88 pilgrimage, which is 1200 km in order to be able to feel my body again. The hardship in organising such a big event is also that it is not without risks, particularly financial. The Japanese economy has changed since the 1990s and it is a feat in itself to find sufficient funding for this global event. Several of the former organisers have had to add out of their own pockets. WSF18 received many donations from performers, who paid their own transport to London, or found their own accommodation, or declined the symbolic payment for performing and giving workshops WSF18 offered, etc. Several persons also donated money to WSF18. I am very proud to say that no donation was greater than ’2500 and that WSF18 managed to break even owing to every one of these kind and generous benefactors. A heartfelt thank you to these anonymous benefactors on the behalf of the WSF18 team and the ESS board! And also a heartful thank you to the three senseis Furuya Teruo, Matama Kazushi and Kakizakai Kaoru, Christopher Blasdel and others who have been involved several times. I have great respect for their contributions.

    With each WSF held, genres and approaches that were previously not represented have been introduced, making WSF a very important event for the democratisation of the shakuhachi world and the movement towards equality among all styles and genres. I am happy to have had the opportunity to contribute to this and to introduce min'yo (folk song) shakuhachi -the largest shakuhachi playing group in Japan - for the first time in WSFfs history apart from a cameo appearance in 1994. The minfyo gave WSF2018 a festive atmosphere and added something that had been missing - the aspect of folk, a non-elite and festive style of music. The inclusion of min'yo could never have happened without David Hughes - the unrivalled min'yo expert and my PhD supervisor, who has among others received the Order of the Rising Sun from the Japanese Emperor in 2017 and the Koizumi Fumio Ethnomusicology Prize in 2018.

    It was also an important step for me to have been able to make use of contacts from my personal ethnomusicology fieldwork to invite players of regional traditions to WSF2018 and bring them to the festival. We therefore had the joy of welcoming Yamada Fumio and Suto Shuho from Kinpu Ryu, both of them Holders of Tradition of Aomori Prefecture. The director of Myoan Temple, Seian Genshin, in London, representing the Myoan Taizan Ha and the Myoanji Temple and the work done there for regional shakuhachi traditions, and the head priest of Itchoken Temple in Fukuoka, Iso Genmyo also guested the festival. Some regional shakuhachi players - most from the Kansai area - did indeed participate in WSF12 in Kyoto, but to have them come to Europe was - to me - magic.

    I believe it important to in some way represent the place hosting the WSF. In the case of WSF2018, we were able to invite some active members of the London Improvising Scene under the name eLondon Meets Japanf. Four London musicians joined in musical encounters with Kuroda Reison, Obama Akihito, Enomoto Shusui and Orimo Sabu. One of the long-time improvisors on shakuhachi, Clive Bell, also participated, and thereby emphasised the importance of improvisation at WSF, London.

    The English composer Frank Denyer, who is without doubt one of the most important composers of contemporary music for shakuhachi, was represented with a Denyer-focused concert where his pieces were played - probably for a new audience, since most of Denyer's pieces were written for Iwamoto Yoshikazu, who retired as a shakuhachi performer some time ago. I am grateful to Kuroda Reison, Kawamura Kizan, Richard Stagg, and Octandre for making Frank's music come alive again.

    As organisers, we, of course received feedback - not only positive but also negative. Some of which was very contradictory - i e, too much sankyoku, not enough sankyoku; too much contemporary music, not enough contemporary music; not enough jinashi, too much jinashi; too many Japanese players, too many European players, and not enough European players. In such a broad festival, one tries to provide something for everyone, but the programme is always a compromise. The current demographics of the shakuhachi world have changed as well. A criticism that we received, particularly within Europe, was that not everyone who works professionally with the instrument was invited. As a reference point, we can examine the WSF1998 in Boulder, 20 years ago. At that festival, pretty much everybody who was anybody was invited. But at that time, there were far fewer eeverybodies who are anybodiesf. Since then the shakuhachi world has exploded, with far more professionals now than 20 years ago. The only way to run a festival nowadays is to compromise, and to choose invitees and a programme which is hopefully representative of the shakuhachi world, but which cannot include every deserving player.

    As the first female chair of a WSF executive committee, I am looking forward to more to follow. I also hope to see more and more female performers included in the programme - but it is a slow process and although we have come a long way since the women-only panel discussion and concert, organised by Ronnie Nyogetsu Reishin Seldin at WSF04 in New York, much work here remains to be done.

    I think we pushed the bar of new genres and approaches sufficiently to pass the baton on to Cain Li and William Li for WSF2022, who again will push the bar and for example, include popular music as a main musical genre. I can't wait experiencing WSF 2038 or 42! I am sure it will be far beyond anything I can imagine today.

Memory of the Past World Shakuhachi Festivals

  • David Wheeler, Kansuke II (United States)
    A Tearful Speech

    Given Katsuya Yokoyama's commitment and dedication, the founding of the Kokusai Shakuhachi Kenshukan in 1988 was not a surprise. Nor was Yokoyama's presenting the first International Shakuhachi Festival there in 1994. Yokoyama's decades of hard work seemed to be paying off.
    Cory Sperry, an American shakuhachi enthusiast attended the 1994 festival and, swept up in the spirit of the moment, volunteered to host a shakuhachi festival outside of Japan, in Boulder, Colorado, USA. It took place in the summer of 1998, hosted by the University of Colorado (CU) at Boulder. It was the first such festival on this scale in history, and received government and private support on many levels from both Japan and the US.
    As the leading proponent of such festivals, Yokoyama was a central presence at the Boulder festival. He gave a speech at the pre-festival party at an outdoor venue on the CU campus. The energy and excitement emmanating from the crowd of dignitaries, fans and professional and amateur shakuachi players gathered from all over the world was high.
    When Yokoyama stood to speak, he was understandably emotional; this festival represented the realization of a dream he had pursued for decades. Now it was actually happening. Anyone in his position would be feeling their emotions on the surface, and would perhaps apologize in advance of-or perhaps after-choking up in mid-sentence. Maybe Yokoyama didn't want to depend on an interpreter to communicate his feelings. Perhaps he didnft realize just how emotional he was. Whatever the case, he chose the most direct means possible to both recognize his emotions and to share them from the stage. He approached the podium wth a sense of great dignity and conviction. When he reached the lecturn, he grasped it with both hands, leaned into the microphone and let out a primal tear-soaked roar, giving full vent to the cocktail of emotions coursing through his heart and mind. It was an appropriate opening statement for this historic festival, expressed straight from his heart to ours.