Music on a mission: Japanese concert for cultural exchange

Updated 23 April 2014

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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Film Review: Afghan tale of three troubled pregnancies fails to deliver

Director Sahraa Karimi profiles the lives of three young Afghan women. (Supplied)
Updated 55 min 57 sec ago

Film Review: Afghan tale of three troubled pregnancies fails to deliver

VENICE: Dubbed Afghanistan’s first female director, Sahraa Karimi grew up in Iran with her refugee parents, and later studied cinema in Slovakia.

With 30 shorts and a couple of documentaries under her belt, she travelled this year to the Venice Film Festival with her debut fiction feature, “Hava, Maryam, Ayesha.”

Studying and making movies in Europe was not her scene. “Somehow, from a storytelling perspective, I don’t belong to that part of the world,” she said, recalling her days in Slovakia. “I belong to Afghanistan.”

She returned to Kabul to shoot “Hava, Maryam, Ayesha,” which was produced by Katayoon Shahabi of Noori Pictures that once helped introduce Iranian directors such as Asghar Farhadi and Mohammad Rasoulof to the world.

In her film, Karimi profiles the lives of three young Afghan women, linked only by problems with the men in their lives.

Hava’s (Arezoo Ariapoor) husband is callous to the point of being cruel, and her only comfort is talking to the baby in her womb. But when it stops kicking, she panics.

Maryam (Fereshta Afshar) is a popular television news reporter who wants to divorce her philandering husband. However, he insists on giving their marriage one more chance, and Maryam finds out she is pregnant.

Another expectant mother, 18-year-old Ayesha (Hasiba Ebrahimi), comes from a middleclass family but is left with no choice but to marry her cousin after being dumped by her cowardly boyfriend.

The three stories, while seemingly interesting, fail to engage because there is hardly any dramatic curve in them.

Possibly the only high point about the movie was Karimi’s relaying of the real-life tales she drew from women during her travels as a UNICEF representative. The experience was cathartic for many.

“Women don’t share their secret lives with their families or their communities, because they’re scared of rumors and gossip,” said Karimi. But with the female director, they felt comfortable and began to speak “about their suffering, wishes, and dreams.”

The more difficult part for Karimi was the shoot itself. The crew had to film under trying conditions with at least four bombs exploding in and around Kabul. But she labored on.

This probably prevented her from getting better technical results from an interesting concept, but the film could still have been pepped up with livelier storytelling.