Shakuhachi: Kominato Akihisa and the Music of the Universe (Video)


Kominato Akihisa is a young virtuoso on the shakuhachi, a Japanese bamboo flute. In the hands of a virtuoso like Kominato, the shakuhachi can express a wide range of emotions, almost like a human voice in song. By bringing a spirit of innovation to the rich traditions of this historical Japanese instrument, Kominato has delighted audiences around the world. In this video, Kominato introduces the history and diversity of the shakuhachi, and performs a special piece accompanied by piano.

Kominato Akihisa

Born in 1978 in Fukushima Prefecture. As the eldest son of a family of master musicians in the Kominato min’yō folk ballad tradition, he was initiated by his parents at an early age and first appeared on stage at the age of five. In 1995 he began studying the shakuhachi under the late Yamaguchi Gorō, a living national treasure. In 2001, he graduated from the Department of Traditional Japanese Music at the Tokyo University of the Arts. Today he is a prominent performer who appears frequently on TV and radio and at concerts and events in Japan and overseas. In addition to Japanese classical music, his work encompasses a broad range of genres, including folk ballads, pop, and jazz.

Kominato Akihisa’s shakuhachi produces a rich, powerful tone that brings tradition and innovation together.

At first, the sweet, high-pitched tone of the shakuhachi might sound reminiscent of a note from a flute . . . but then comes a blast of resonant, breathy overtones produced by muraiki, a distinctive blowing technique unique to the shakuhachi. The deeply expressive sound transmits a deep emotion directly to the heart. The shakuhachi offers a remarkable range of expressive possibilities. Different breathing techniques offer the player the possibility to use high and low tones and vibrato on the same note without changing the fingering.

The shakuhachi is also an extremely versatile instrument. The perfect match for a piano accompaniment, its haunting sound is just as impressive against the backdrop of traffic noise and street sounds. The song-like possibilities of the shakuhachi mean that it can be played in collaboration with just about any instrument. Performed solo, it has the power to move the soul like a cappella blues.

For many Japanese people, the shakuhachi has a somewhat old-fashioned image. Kominato’s ground-breaking approach is changing a lot of people’s minds and providing a powerful reminder of the unique strengths and attractions of the instrument. Listeners from outside Japan experiencing the mysterious beauty of the shakuhachi for the first time are sure to relish their first encounter with this unique, avant-garde music.

We hope you will enjoy the rich sound palette of the shakuhachi and join Kominato Akihisa on his exploration of the music of the universe.

Shakuhachi music Kominato Akihisa Kinko minyo folk ballad traditional performing arts Suzanne Boyle Yamaguchi Gorō living national treasure