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Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2001

Kitaro tunes in to a healing vibe

Staff writer

Kitaro, one of few Japanese musicians known internationally, has unshaken faith in his music. With enormous energy counterpointing his calm, modest and easy-going manner, he has handled huge projects in the past and has been called the pioneer of New Age music in Japan.

New Age musician Kitaro is currently touring Japan.

After living and touring in the U.S. for the past 15 years, he has come back to tour Japan. Having gained international fame, he says, he wondered what he could bring back to Japan at the start of the 21st century.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how my music will be received [now] by Japanese audiences," Kitaro says.

Kitaro made his solo debut in 1978, and two years later, at 26, composed the megahit theme music for the NHK documentary series "Silk Road." He then became the first Japanese musician ever to do a U.S. tour. Since then, he has continuously taken on new challenges and doesn't seem about to stop.

In recent years, he has released a number of new albums, including two major ones: "Ancient," the soundtrack for the NHK program "The World's Four Great Civilizations," released last July, and "An Ancient Journey," released last week as the sequel to "Ancient."

Two of his compositions, the "Silk Road" theme and "Haha Naru Taiga" (the opening theme song for "The World's Four Great Civilizations," featuring Slava), have been included in the compilation album "Flow -- Healing Inspiration." Moreover, "Thinking of You," released in July 1999, has been nominated for the New Age Album Section for the 43rd Grammy Awards.

Kitaro records in his studio at home, in a Colorado village at the foot of the Rockies. He says he receives inspiration when he composes from the nature that surrounds him: "An Ancient Journey" intertwines sounds from nature with chants resembling church prayers.

Wanting to pass on something of his experience to the next generation of musicians, he did an American tour in 1999 with young musicians and hopes to do more such tours in the future.

In recent years, so-called healing music has proved popular among stressed-out businesspeople in Japan, with a large number of CDs of this kind being released.

Kitaro tries to make full use of the positive effects of his music. For example, he has done concerts for pregnant mothers to make them feel happy and relaxed, which featured the deep beat of Japanese taiko drums, which he loves.

But actually he is not so keen on his music being called "healing," which he feels is a limiting category. He just wants to create pleasant music that touches the heartstrings.

"I hope that the energy I release will result in a good song," he says.

Nonetheless, the healing reputation persists. Medical researchers have even investigated the effects of Kitaro's music on alpha waves in the brain, which are said to make people relax.

"When some kind of music is said to be healing, it is not only due to the power of the music itself. People tend to be healed through themselves -- through the way in which they feel," says Kitaro.

"Being moved by music can be the first step in healing for people. I just press the button for them through music to create that opportunity."

Kitaro Japan Tour Sound Odyssey 2001 Jan. 30 at Osaka Festival Hall; Feb. 1-2 at Tokyo's NHK Hall; Feb. 4 at Aichi Prefectural Art Theater, Nagoya. For more information, call Kyodo Tokyo at (03) 3498-9999 or visit the official Kitaro Web site at www.kitaro.net

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