SHAKUHACHI

HONKYOKU - TRADITIONAL SHAKUHACHI MUSIC

Honshirabe 

Credits Bryan Jardim - Shakuhachi, Recording, Mixing & Mastering

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Description 'Honshirabe' literally means 'basic melody'. Komuso monks used this piece as the building blocks of shakuhachi honkyoku music and some played this piece for their entire lives as part of their Buddhist training. 

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IRISH TRADITIONAL MUSIC - PLAYED ON MY HANDMADE JINASHI SHAKUHACHI

Carraig Fhearghais

Credits Bryan Jardim - Shakuhachi, Video, Recording, Mixing & Mastering

Philip Horan - Shakuhachi Arrangement

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Description My mammy's favourite tune, played on my '2.2 Jinashi' Shakuhachi. The '2.2' corresponds to an ancient measuring system used in Japan and it literally describes the length of the flute. The length affects the natural key signature of the flute, and this flute's fundamental is tuned to a Bb in 440 Hz concert pitch.

A Brief History

The shakuhachi is a Japanese bamboo flute. Introduced to Japan from China in the 7th century, the flute evolved in its construction until the Edo period (17th-18th century) where it became more popular and the instrument's repertoire developed.

Traditional shakuhachi music is called 'Honkyoku' and it was composed and played exclusively by Komuso monks of the Fuke sect of Zen Buddhism, as a means of meditation. Legend has it that many of these monks were former 'ronin' (lordless samurai) who became unemployed as a result of the era of peace during the Tokugawa period. Forbidden to carry swords, these ronin monks began making shakuhachi out of the stronger root end of bamboo so it could double up as a club-like weapon.

 

When playing Honkyoku, the use of 'ma' or silence in music is of the utmost importance and the variation of timbre outweighs melody and rhythm. Most Honkyoku have a free rhythm based on breath and not a pulse.

 

There are broadly two main types of shakuhachi, Jinashi & Jiari. Without going into too much detail, Jinashi shakuhachi are made using just the single piece of bamboo itself. As each piece of bamboo is unique, their tuning, tone and playability can be unpredictable.
 

Jiari shakuhachi have their bores filled with plaster or other types of material. This material can be used to mold the bore into a desired predetermined shape, allowing for a much more predictable flute and bringing it closer to western tuning and instrument construction.

My Shakuhachi Journey

In 2016, I stumbled across a shakuhachi being sold for €50 on the internet not to far from where I live. I had no prior knowledge of this flute before then and decided to take the risk and make an offer on it. I travelled to Bray, Co. Wicklow to pick it up and was met by a 70 year old man who appeared to collect all sorts of things. He was selling his shakuhachi as he could never get a note out of it and moved on to the tin whistle instead. 

After over 45 minutes of "how to play shakuhachi" YouTube videos, I managed to a faint whistle out of it. I searched online for an "Irish shakuhachi teacher" almost a joke, I was never expecting to find one! There was a Dublin based, qualified shakuhachi teacher called Philip Horan.

I began lessons immediately and after a few years Philip also taught me the basics of shakuhachi making. Usually, one's first shakuhachi is close to unplayable, but thanks to having such a great teacher, the first shakuhachi I made (pictured here on this page) was well tuned, and with a powerful tone. 

My passion for this instrument was further increased after attending the 2018 World Shakuhachi Festival in London, and the 2019 European Shakuhachi Summer School in Lisbon. Now, for the first time ever, Philip, and his small community of Irish shakuhachi players, are bringing the European Shakuhachi Festival to Dublin. Check the website out here: http://dublin2020.shakuhachisociety.eu/ - Now rescheduled to 2021 due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

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