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The shakuhachi is a Japanese vertical flute. It is used in religious, folk and classical music. The shakuhachi is made from a single piece of madake bamboo cut at the roots so the trunk naturally forms the bell of the instrument.

Although types of shakuhachi like the gagaku (court music) shakuhachi and the hitoyogiri (a shorter, thinner flute) appeared in Japan in the 6th and 14th centuries respectively, the modern shakuhachi and its music developed in the Edo period (1615-1868). Wandering beggar priests known as komuso, wearing baskets over their heads as symbols of their detachment from the material world, played the shakuhachi as a way of soliciting alms from the public. A group of komuso formed the Fuke sect of Zen Buddhism and forged documents claiming historical legitimacy and the legal right to solicit alms in this fashion. The Shogun’s advisers granted their request for recognition providing the komuso would act as informers.

The priests developed a solo shakuhachi repertoire as an adjunct to meditation. This repertoire is known today as honkyoku (original pieces) and the compositions were often inspired by natural settings or Buddhist practices. Honkyoku are characterized by their slow free rhythms, dynamic swells, and control of minute tonal colorings.

In the Meji period (1868-1912), schools, or ryu, were established by the original komuso. Each school teaches a different style of playing. They vary in their notation systems, fingering, ornaments and even the design of the instrument. The most famous schools are the Kinko-ryu and the Tozan-ryu, but there are also smaller schools such as the Ueda-ryu whose honkyoku music is featured on this recording. In keeping with this tradition, Tani Senzan keeps the music of the shakuhachi alive by performing and teaching in the manner of the original schools.


Tani Senzan is the foremost master of the Ueda style of shakuhachi playing. He began his studies in Osaka with his father, who was also a Ueda-ryu shakuhachi master and recording artist. Under the tutelage of Ueda Kado, Mr. Tani received his headmaster status in 1977, won three consecutive Ueda National Gold medals and also won top honours in the N.H.K. National Music Competition. During the same period he recorded an album entitled “The Season of the White Flower” for King Record. Mr. Tani has performed in Europe and North America and continues to have a busy concert schedule throughout Japan, as well as playing at cultural festivals and on radio and television.Tani Senzan also performs on “Evening Snow” and “Japanese Mysteries” both from Oasis Productions.

Producer: Grant Mackay

Associate Producer: Ron Korb

Tracks 1 through 6 recorded at Inception Sound Studios, Toronto, Canada, August 21, 1988.

Recording Engineer: Harold Kilianski

Recording Assistant: Janice Bayer

Cover photo of Zen garden, Fukuoka, Japan

Liner notes: Ron Korb • Photography Ron Korb

Tracks 7 through 10 produced by Ron Korb at LM Studios, Osaka, Japan, October 8, 1991.

Recording Engineer: Koji Hayashi

20 Bit mastered by Paul LaChapelle

at Quest Recording Studios, Oshawa, Canada on January 10, 1998

Special thanks to: Masako Yamaguchi, Tanaka Yoko, Kyakuden Miyako, Koyuru Asamoto and the Ueda School Iemoto.


Category:Japanese Music