Music on a mission: Japanese concert for cultural exchange

Updated 23 April 2014
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Music on a mission: Japanese concert for cultural exchange

A “Japanese Traditional Music Concert” was held at the Japanese Consul General’s residence last weekend in Jeddah. The show, organized by the Japanese Consulate in association with the Japan Foundation, was a treat for music aficionados, who felt the music took them on a journey of their beautiful country.
Matahiro Yamaguchi, Consul General of Japan in Jeddah, welcomed guests, diplomats, music lovers and journalists and introduced Japanese artists, guitarist Masahrio Nitta, drummer Shinta Wadaiko, both of the Wacocoro Brothers, and flute player Akihito Obama.
“Cultural exchange through students is an academic program today. Similarly, we hold such events for cultural exchange between two friendly countries. This is a musical night in the historic city of Jeddah,” said Yamaguchi, adding that the Japanese and Arabic music is similar in many ways because “people of Japan and the Middle East share the same five skills of music that are called ‘Mukamat of music’.”
Nitta of the Wacocoro Brothers is known as one of the “greatest shamisen players in the world.”
He said the Tsugaru Shamisen is a Japanese three-stringed folk instrument resembling a banjo. Originating in China, the Tsugaru shamisen first arrived in the southern island of Okinawa and made its way to the Tsugaru district of the Aomori prefecture in northern Japan — where over the past century it became an instrument known for its flashy, quick-fingered playing style that has stunned audiences around the world.
This was not Nitta’s first visit to the Kingdom. He visited Riyadh in 2011. He began playing the shamisen at the age of 14 and dominated national tournaments by 16.
He has performed in the US and throughout Asia.
The brothers performed live on the occasion of Portland Japanese Garden’s 50th anniversary and in honor of the Portland Art Museum’s Samurai exhibition.
Obama studied various styles of shakuhachi under leading musicians such as Toshimitsu Ishikawa (traditional shakuhachi) and Satoshi Yoneya (minyo folk music shakuhachi). Obama won the Second Annual Shakuhachi Newcomer Competition (2000).
Obama also performs as a solo musician and has participated in various ensembles. He often appears in concerts overseas and has performed in over 30 countries.
The three artists performed together 13 musical lyrics, which include: Yami Gir, Kokiruko Bushi, Tsugaru Jyongara Bushi, Yamagoe, Komuso, Komuso, Cross Road Wadaiko Solo Play, The Theme of Wacocoro Brother, The Red Sea, Shicho, Earth Beat, The Friends Bird, The Eastern Road, Shiraha, and Eco Fuji.
Yami Gir depicts two samurai fighting each other under the moon. Its music is composed by Akihito Obama. Kokiruko Bushi is the oldest folk melody in Japan, while Tsugaru Jyongara Bushi is a famous piece of music mourning those who committed suicide at the river because of their poverty in the Aomori prefecture.
Shinta Wadaiko told Arab news that during their stay in Jeddah the group enjoyed famous Saudi fast food Al-Baik and were in awe of the thobe, a garment traditionally worn by Saudi men.
“It was a great pleasure to play our music in Jeddah, which is a city of diversity, the people of Jeddah love different kinds of music, art and culture as they want to understand each other.”
The group also said they would like to come back and perform for Saudi audiences as well as perform with Saudi musicians to learn Arabic instruments such as Oud and Duff.

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West End theater turns migrant camp to get London audience talking

Updated 31 min 41 sec ago
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West End theater turns migrant camp to get London audience talking

  • The Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End aims to immerse the audience in the squalid camp in the northern French port city of Calais that inspired “The Jungle.”
  • The immersive play offers a glimpse into life in the camp, telling the story of asylum-seekers, people smugglers and charity workers who used to populate it.

LONDON: London theatergoers used to spectating in comfort are in for a rude awakening after the authors of a play swapped the traditional plush velvet seating for wooden benches and covered the floor with soil to simulate the feel of a migrant camp.
The Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End aims to immerse the audience in the squalid camp in the northern French port city of Calais that inspired “The Jungle,” whose authors hope their play will stoke debate about migration.
“People often hold strong opinions about this subject because it doesn’t seem to have any immediate answer,” said Joe Murphy, 27, who co-wrote the play.
“Discussion is the only think that is going to get us forward ... and hopefully this play can provide some of that space for debate,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.
Co-author Joe Robertson said the pair had “tried to depict both the terrible conditions that existed in the Jungle camp, but also the hope that existed in that place.”
Up to 10,000 people seeking ways to reach Britain used to live in the giant slum before it was cleared by authorities in late 2016.
Immigration remains a major political issue across Europe, as well as in the United States, where the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the Mexican border has caused an international outcry.
Several European leaders including those of France, Germany, Italy and Austria are to hold talks on Sunday to explore how to stop people from moving around the European Union after claiming asylum in one of the Mediterranean states of arrival.
Murphy and Robertson, 28, based the script on their experience as volunteers in Calais, where they ran a temporary theater within the camp.
The immersive play offers a glimpse into life in the camp, telling the story of asylum-seekers, people smugglers and charity workers who used to populate it.
“There were 25 different nationalities of people all forced to live side by side often on top of each other and the phenomenal story about that place was people did make an effort to come together,” said Robertson.
Theatre-goers are invited to seat at the tables of the camp’s makeshift Afghan café, where the action unfolds.
“The closer you are to the audience the better the message is delivered,” said actor Ammar Hajj Ahmad, who plays one of the leading characters.
Ahmad, from Syria, is one of many actors from a refugee background featured in the play. Several asylum-seekers the authors met in Calais are also part of the cast.
“I am proud of this, I love telling stories ... about the many people who lived in Calais,” said cast-member Mohamed Sarrar, a musician from Sudan who arrived in Britain two years ago.
The play, which premiered at another London theater The Young Vic, last year, runs from July 5 to November.