~ Music from the Japanese soul for you, now ~
From ancient days, Japanese have lived in harmony with nature, believing that there are gods are everywhere. There are gods of the mountains, gods of the seas, gods of the rivers, gods of everything.
Through gratitude towards nature they likely felt the gods in the wilderness and the cosmos.
My love for gagaku began when I first heard the piece Niwabi (garden fire). Niwabi is a piece of music that existed in Japan long before gagaku was introduced from China. It is a kagura flute solo to consecrate the area and prepare for the gods to come down from the heavens. When the spiritual notes started flowing from composer Sukeyasu Shiba’s flute, I felt strongly that the gods had descended. The surprise and emotion touched my soul like nothing I had ever experienced in my life. From that moment on, communicating Wakon-yosai, (Japanese spirit and Western techniques) became my calling.
At the 1400-year celebration for Itsukushima Shrine in 1995, I hosted a dinner show with the help of my priest friends and sang this feeling from my heart. That was my debut.
In 1999, after overcoming the fundamental differences between gagaku and Western music such as scale, pitch, and style of expression, I performed at the world music festival, August In Hiroshima ’99. This became my CD entitled MIYABI. Following that, I formed YAMATO wishing to communicate this music with the group’s members who all live in Hiroshima.
Recent issues such as the terrorist attacks in New York, religious wars in the Middle East, and problems with North Korea and Iraq suggest that we are not headed towards peace but rather in the opposite direction. In the backdrop however, I feel that there is a lack of tolerance for other cultures and other religions, and that people are not willing to accept one another.
With the magnitude of natural threats that are completely out of our control and unprecedented results that we cannot avoid, perhaps the gods are trying to tell us something.
There is no better time than now to care for nature, to give thanks to nature, and to re-assess the ancient Japanese heart that has enough room to accept all types of religion.
I believe that when Shotoku Taishi said “harmony (wa) is to be valued” he was speaking of this spirit that reveres nature.
In prayer of nuclear abolishment and world peace, I hope to take the ancient Japanese soul, turn it into Hiroshima’s spirit, and send to all people of the world, the music of YAMATO.
Izumi Kimoto