This year, Makigami Koichi got a new bag to play with. It's Shakuhachi, a traditional vertical bamboo flute of Japan. Along with Shamisen and Koto, it is one of the most popular instruments for Hougaku, the generic term of traditional Japanese music. A wikipedia entry of Shakuhachi is here.
Shakuhachi has a long history. Some says its root could be traced back in 6th century. Legend has it that even Prince Umayado, a very famous Japanese politician from 6th century (wikipedia), played that one.
Shakuhachi also has an image closely connected with calmness, serenity, and tranquility. This is mostly because it has been traditionally played by Komuso (wikipedia), a school of Zen buddhist monk.
Shakuhachi is also widely used for contemporary music, in Japanese and western forms, especially classic and jazz.
Takemitsu Toru - Eclipse (1966), a composition for shakuhachi and biwa.
Yamamoto Hozan played Dave Brubeck's "Take Five." Yamamoto, living National Treasure appointed by Japanese Government, is one of the representative contemporary player of the instrument. He has also been very positive playing jazz, and has recorded with musicians like Helen Merill, Tony Scott, and Gary Peacock.
Kitajima Saburo - Yosaku. An immensely popular tune of 1978 by the great balladeer. Shakuhachi is often used for popular music and this one is a nice example.
In early 2011, Makigami prepared for the performance in Tuva in March for cultural exchange event, and he thought it's nice opportunity to start playing Shakuhachi because it's a representative instrument of Japanese music.
But his choice is unordinary - he got a shakuhachi made in plastic. Normally, Shakuhachi is made from bamboo. It was just recent that plastic shakuhachi was introduced. Certainly it has some merit; fairly affordable, its sound is bright, and most of all, it boasts outstanding durability. Shakuhachi is not easy to maintain - in particularly, it's very easy to crack if air humidity is low. This fragility is often problematical, especially for playing the instrument outside Japan. One need not to worry about that with plastic shakuhachi.
There's another problem; That is, shakuhachi is notorious being very hard to play. But this didn't apply to Makigami; he has been practicing a flute for more than 20 years (although he has never played it in public), and that helped a lot. He succeeded to made a sound immediately when he played it for the first time - and it's something exceptional. He soon started to use it at concert and recording, and we expect to listen to his shakuhachi playing on the forthcoming album of Hikashu which will be released in spring of 2012.
Makigami Koichi performed a voice shakuhachi with Ondar Mongun-ool in Tuva, March 2011.