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Friday, June 1, 2007
WINDS OF CHANGE
One man's shakuhachi odyssey
By CHIHO IUCHI
Christopher Yohmei Blasdel will perform a concert commemorating his 35 years of playing the shakuhachi on June 9 in Sendagaya, Tokyo.
Born in Texas, Blasdel came to Japan as a student in 1972, when he began studying Japanese music and the shakuhachi (bamboo flute) with master Goro Yamaguchi, a Living National Treasure.
Blasdel received his teaching license — and professional alias "Yohmei" — from Yamaguchi in 1984. At the same time, Blasdel was also completing his studies in ethnomusicology at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music.
As a permanent resident in Japan, Blasdel has been active performing the shakuhachi as well as teaching and lecturing on traditional Japanese music throughout North America, Asia and Europe.
In 2000, Blasdel published the award-winning book "A Shakuhachi Odyssey," which he wrote in Japanese. In the book, he describes his arrival in Japan and long years of tutelage under his mentor Yamaguchi and encounters with other performers. An English-language version of this book, titled "The Single Tone — A Personal Journey Through Shakuhachi Music," was published two years ago.
Blasdel takes a modern, multidisciplinary approach to this ancient instrument, which arrived in Japan in the seventh century, imported from China. He frequently collaborates with artists outside the field of music from around the world and performs modern compositions for the shakuhachi.
This recital is such an event. Titled "Shakuhachi exTemporal," part one is a performance of a contemporary work, "Sokoku Butai," in collaboration with dancer Hideo Arai, singer Mika Kimura and sculptor Koji Ohno; part two will feature improvised versions of shakuhachi classics from the Edo Period, including "Tsuki no Kyoku" and "Sarashi."
The recital takes place at Tsuda Hall, Sendagaya 1-8-24, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, and starts at 6:30 p.m. The venue is near JR Sendagaya Station on the Sobu Line and Kokuritsu Kyogijo Station (Exit 4) on the Toei Oedo Subway Line. To access a map, visit tsudahall.com/index.html
Tickets are 4,000 yen in advance (call the Aura-J Office at  3749-3741).