Category Archives: Music

Images from Sanka’s Winter Ritual

On January 25th I attended Sanka’s Winter Ritual; a performance at Urbanguild by the mixed media collective Ensō Watt. Just as  when I attended the Autumn Ritual in October, I was completely enthralled by the mounting energy of this show. It really is a treat to see talented artists from so many varied disciplines blending their abilities so successfully.

At an Ensō Watt performance there are two screens, one poet, and musicians positioned around the room... The audience is bathed in light and sound.

At an Ensō Watt performance there are two screens, one poet, and musicians positioned around the room… The audience is bathed in colour and sound.

Of course, it could have all gone horribly wrong. On the one side you have a classically trained composer and conductor (Yannick Paget), and on the other you have an unruly bunch of experimental musicians, video artists and soundscape technicians (everybody else). You might assume that their natural instincts would pull them in two mutually incompatible directions, and you can easily imagine the resulting riotous blasphemy of chaotic sound and colour that would result. Ensō Watt manages to keep the balance between order and liberty just right however, and I think it is that fine balance, that tension between two compulsions that makes their performances so thrilling.

A limited score gives some structure to the performance, but the rest is improvisation...

A limited score gives some structure to the performance, but the rest is improvisation…

Those experimental artists who are used to playing with complete fresdom, are given a structure in which to contain their genius. The composer/conductor Yannick Paget, who by his training has always played completely fixed and rigid compositions, is suddenly set free to improvise at will. Everyone is playing outside their comfort zone and this provides a sense of adventure.

Yasutaka Okada on contrabass

Yasutaka Okada on contrabass

And all of this is inspired by the mystical refrains of Chris Mosdell’s poetry. His words conjure visions of a people (the semi-legendary Sanka tribe) who are swept up in both dread and ecstatic passion at the most elemental forces of life.

Poetry assaults the senses!

Poetry assaults the senses!

Clearly he is in his element, and  it must be a great joy for the poet that his words have inspired the other artists to produce for this one night a magnificent shimmering sanctuary of light and sound.

The poet too is caught up in the magic of the moment.

The poet too, is caught up in the magic of the moment.

Meanwhile, Yannick Paget throws himself into an enraptured percussive performance, while simultaneously (and most wondrously!) maintaining control over the ritual’s flow by conducting the other musicians. How he does all this is a mystery, but as he banged out the final crescendo of rhythm on the drums, it was all I could do to stop myself from throwing up a horny handed salute! The man might be a classical musician by trade, but at heart he is a rock star!

Yannick in the dark.

Yannick in the dark.

It is unfair though, to single out individuals for special praise in this collective. All of the members are brilliant, and their seamless collective pooling of their talents a remarkable phenomenon that I would encourage you all to see. The next miracle from Ensō Watt, the Rite of Spring will be performed at Urbanguild on April 29th. Mark it down in your diaries.

The ring leaders, left to right: Samuel André, Yannick Paget and Chris Mosdell.

The ring leaders, left to right: Samuel André, Yannick Paget and Chris Mosdell.

To learn more about Ensō Watt and their seasonal rites, visit their website here: http://ensowatt.org/

Sugar Army at Club Socrates, Kyoto; January 11th 2015

In a scattering of mikan oranges, I am briefly popping my head out from the warm kotatsu of oshōgatsu hibernation to bring you this important announcement.

Flying in all the way from Perth, Western Australia, Sugar Army will play Live House Socrates in Kyoto on Sunday January 11th!!!

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Details of the show:
Date: Sunday, January 11th
Doors Open: 16:30
Show Starts: 17:00
Tickets + 1 drink: ¥1,500
Bands:
Sugar Army
TheTrueStoryOfTheEnd
THE STINGRAYS
ファミリィ
Great Big Kiss
DJ: Y.S.S

Live House Socrates is a short walk south of Imadegawa on Kawaramachi. Here is a map.

From a review of Sugar Army‘s live show on AMH Network:

Sugar Army has become one of Perth’s premier rock acts from the last few years. Building on their success of their album Summertime Heavy; Sugar Army has used their melodic rock sound to become one of the most creative rock bands in recent years. Touring on the back of their latest album Summmertime Heavy, the band is playing intimate venues to play up close and personal with their fans…Becoming a 5 piece has made their live performance phenomenon…  Smashing each song out perfectly. Patrick was ever so brilliant with his unique vocals. Ending the set with the most unique track and the title track Summertime Heavy shows how mature they have become in many different facets. Sugar Army is one of those bands which should be much bigger as they deserve it. Definitely watch out for the band in the next few months where they will be touring once again.
–Read the rest of this review: LINK.

How cool are Sugar Army? Check out the extreme coolness below:

Jon Levy at the Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto

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The other night we popped into the Ritz-Carlton hotel to see Jon Levy. Jon plays in the lounge there 4 nights a week from Wednesday to Saturday. As well as original numbers he also has a long list of popular tunes, both old and new for people to request from, so he is in fact a human jukebox. We had a great time picking songs for him to play, and for much of the evening we were the only ones there, so it felt like we were having our own private show. Of course drinks at the Ritz Carlton aren’t cheap, but the music is free, and in such a comfortable location it really is a pleasant way to spend the evening. Here’s an old Celine Dion number I requested he play – and he didn’t disappoint!

This month (December) Jon’s schedule at the Ritz-Carlton has been 3 sets from 7.20 pm – 10.00 pm. In the new year though he will be returning to his regular hours of: 6.20 pm – 9.00 pm. The lounge is on the first floor and I highly recommend a visit, if only to see him play.

The Ritz-Carlton overlooks the west side of the Kamo River on the north of Nijo Street. Here is a map.

To learn more about Jon’s music, visit his sites:
http://www.jonlevymusic.com
https://www.youtube.com/user/jonlevymusic
http://jonlevy.bandcamp.com/
https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/jon-levy/id332860828

…or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Video from Bliki Circus – Sans Titre – at Urbanguild

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It was so good to see Bliki Circus return to Urbanguild last week with their energy, talent and group dynamic intact. Here are a couple of videos to give you an idea of what these fine musicians are about, as they play “klezmer, tango, jazz, rock, and punk, and whatever else comes up”. Good times.

Keep up to date with Bliki Circus on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bliki-Circus/248649194982?fref=ts

Sanka’s Winter Ritual: A Mixed Media Performance by Ensō Watt @ Urbanguild; January 25th

I am very excited to learn that Ensō Watt’s Rite of Winter will be performed at Urbanguild on January 25th 2015! This is the third in Ensō Watt’s series celebrating the 100th anniversary of Stravinski’s Rite of Spring.  I attended the Rite of Autumn in October and it was fantastic. Be prepared to be thoroughly immersed in a world of intense colours, poetry, music and myth!

Sanka's winter ritual
Date: Sunday, January 25th
Doors Open:
19:30
Show Starts:
20:00
Tickets on the door:
2600 yen
Tickets in advance:
2000 yen
Student Tickets:
1500 yen
(all tickets include one drink)

About Ensō Watt:
Initiated in 2014 by the sound designer Samuel André, the Ensō Watt artist collective is born in Kyoto from the encounter of artists coming from different countries and raised in entirely different artistic universe, from classical music to electro, improvisation and sound design.

The Seasonal Rites:
A hundred years after Stravinsky’s revolutionary “Rites of Spring,” the members of this artistic collaboration pursue the experience-cum-experiment by focusing on Japan’s seasonal cycles, especially celebrated by the little-known mountainous tribe, the Sanka.

The Show:
The music is inspired by the poetry of Chris Mosdell; it navigates between improvisation and conducted improvisation live by Yannick Paget, based on scored music’s elements. The performers, positioned in the audience, generate an immersive, musical surround-experience (broadcast on 4 speakers). More than just a musical experiment, the event is also shot live via a series of 6 cameras, and is processed and projected on 2 screens during the performance.

city that silk builtThe Poet:
Incidentally, the poet Chris Mosdell has just released a wonderful bilingual book of poems written in Kyoto entitled The City That Silk Built. Chris was kind enough to send me a copy and though I haven’t had time to look at it properly yet, what I have seen looks marvellous. I shall review it in good time, but for now, you can take a look at it on Amazon.co.jp.

For more information on the show:
Press contact: Marguerite Paget: mgtpaget[at]gmail.com / 090 6556 1974
Event coordination: Samuel André: sandre.constellation[at]gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ensowatt?fref=ts

See also the following sites:
Chris Mosdell: http://chrismosdell.com/
Yannick Paget: http://www.yannickpaget.com/
Samuel André: http://p0llenrec.tumblr.com/ https://soundcloud.com/ieva
Ensō Watt: http://ensowatt.org/
Urbanguild: http://www.urbanguild.net/ 

And my short review of the last Ensō Watt performance here: Pictures from Sanka’s Autumn Ritual by Ensō Watt

Handel’s Messiah ~ The 50th Christmas Concert from Doshisha

Every year Doshisha University puts on a Christmas performance of Handel’s masterpiece, “Messiah”, at Kyoto Concert Hall and this year is the 50th!

Messiah
The annual All Doshisha Messiah Concert is hugely popular with members of the local community, as well as with the students, graduates, teachers and staff of Doshisha…. All the performers do their best to make it a Christmas to remember.

All Doshisha Messiah Concert 24th December 2014
Doors open: 17:00
Show begins: 18:00
(B seats open from 16:30)

Place: Kyoto Concert Hall [Access]
Tickets:
S seats [Should be reserved in advance]:2000円
A seats [Should be reserved in advance]:1500円
B seats [Can be bought on the day]:1000円

Tickets can be bought via
Ticket Pia: TEL 0570-02-9999 http://t.pia.jp/(Pコード 243-954)
Kyoto Concert Hall Ticket Agency: TEL 075-711-3090
Doshisha University Co-operative: TEL 0774-65-8376
Or reserved online: here.

Inquiries (in Japanese) to:
All Doshisha Messiah Concert Committee (全同志社メサイア演奏会実行委員会) TEL 080-3864-2412 (Ibuki)
E-mail: doshisha.messiahconcert2014@softbank.ne.jp

Please check the Christmas Concert website for further details (Japanese): https://alldoshishamessiah.net

Bliki Circus Are Back on Stage at Urbanguild on December 18th!!

After a two year hiatus – Bliki Circus are back!

Bliki flyer

Bliki Circus is an acoustic gypsy/punk group in Kyoto, Japan. Their music is reminiscent of traditional folk music from Japan, Eastern Europe and Russia, spiced with touches of Klezmer, tango, jazz, rock, and punk, and whatever else comes up.

If you have seen Bliki Circus before, you know you are ensured a great night out! If you haven’t, take my word for it! Don’t miss this show if you get the chance!

Date: Thursday December 18th
Doors Open: 18:30
Show Starts: 19:00
Charge: 2000 yen
Tickets in Advance: 1800 yen
All tickets include one drink order.

Location: UrBANGUILD. From Sanjo Dori go down Kiyamachi Dori. This is the narrow street running alongside Takase stream. Urbanguild is on the east side (left hand side as you walk down from Sanjo). Walk approximately 150 metres. Its on the 3rd floor of the New Kyoto Building – access by elevator or stairs. Here is a MAP.

bliki flyer reverse
See also: Images and Sound from Bliki Circus

Shakuhachi & Piano Concert with Yoshida Koichi, Ikeda Ippei & Carmen Alvarez

shakuhachipiano january concert

Yoshida Nazarov Koichi is coming home to Kyoto! After two years performing music in Russia and Europe, shakuhachi player Yoshida Nazarov Koichi will return to Japan this January, and play his first performance at the legendary Zac Baran! Playing once again with his former bandmate, the jazz pianist Ikeda Ippei, Koichi has a fresh new batch of original tunes, traditional numbers and covers from all genres! As an added bonus, our good friend, the flamenco singer and dancer Carmen Alvarez, will also be joining in the night’s entertainments.

Date: January 10th 2015
Doors open: 18:00
Start : 19:30
Charge: ¥1800
Place:Zac Baran 
Map: http://www.secondhouse.co.jp/zacbaran_access.html

Performers:
Shakuhachi: Yoshida Nazarov Koichi: kosuian.com
Piano: Ikeda Ippei: http://www15.plala.or.jp/Pianika
Guest Artist: Carmen Alvarez from Spain, flamenco dancer and singer: http://www.carmenflamenco.com/

See also: Video of Koichi’s band Yugao with Carmen Alvarez at Zac Baran

tRace elements – The Final Kiyamachi Tour – Video & Photos from Tadg’s

Two Kiyamachi legends: Ryotaro & Max

Two Kiyamachi legends: Ryotaro & Max

Unfortunately, due to other commitments, Mewby and I were only able to attend one stop on Max & Ryotaro‘s final 10-bar tour of Kiyamachi. We enjoyed every minute of the set they played at Tadg’s though. Here are some photos and finally a video of my personal favorite among all of Max’s songs…

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See also:
http://www.ryotaro.info/
http://markdodds.com/

Up & Down the Ki’ – Two Extracts from Deep Kyoto: Walks by Michael Lambe

This month we have two extracts from Deep Kyoto: Walks. Both are from my own piece on a musical tour of Kiyamachi bars conducted by my good friends Mark (Max) Dodds and Ryotaro Sudo in late November last year. On Saturday November 29th 2014 Max and Ryotaro will again perform this tour for the tenth and final time, so a couple of short excerpts from my account seemed timely. In the following passage we have reached Tadg’s bar, and the musicians and the audience are all having a splendid time when suddenly a song of Max’s induces a mood of wistful reverie…

kiya

Two extracts from Up & Down the Ki’
A Musical Tour of Kiyamachi & Pontocho with Mark Dodds & Ryotaro Sudo
by MICHAEL LAMBE

…There are a small group playing Irish music as the rest of our party arrives and Max and I, in honour of our roots, dance a little faux jig as they play. Max manages to persuade the fiddle player Peter Damashek to join himself, Ryotaro and four members of another local band, Dodo, who are due to join them for a full band experience: one fiddle, two guitars, an accordion, bass and two percussionists. This is going to be good.

The magnificent seven raise their glasses in a mutual toast and then play for us a spirited set that is one of the highlights of the night, starting appropriately with a Pogues number before moving onto Max’s originals. Everyone is dancing now, and laughing, the musicians are smiling as they play and Tadg himself happily taking pictures is absolutely beaming. I suddenly feel rather moved at the scene before me, for it doesn’t feel like a show as such but a big family gathering. And then they play Max’s “Glory Be”. I absolutely adore this song: on the surface it is a toast to a loving relationship that has yet outlasted life’s trials and turmoils and with that in mind, I feel a pang for my own girl Miu, remembering that time we swayed to this song together just a year ago.

Babe you know who I am
Without needing to understand
I am just a grain of sand…

As the day winds down the night winds up
And we will share a loving cup
Of the sacramental wine

Tonight though, there’s something else, I feel like the song is also a serenade to this old town and the people in it and that the band is raising a loving cup to us all.

Every soul will be delivered
Somewhere up or down this deep, dark river
Every drop of rain, every grain of sand…

And so another memorable night at Tadg’s draws to a close, and Lawrence and I head over to Urbanguild ahead of the others, as Lawrence says, “to get the pints in”…

In this second extract we have now reached Urbanguild and things are about to get wild!

…It’s well after eleven for we are running late and whatever performances Urbanguild had tonight have now finished, but the audience and performers are unaware that Max and Ryotaro are about to treat them to some indoor busking. Back in Tadg’s, Ryotaro was talking about “having a rest” and playing a few quiet songs outside by the elevator. But they don’t do that. And they don’t set up their gear on the stage either, but in the middle of the floor between the wooden benches. As the onlookers gather round in a smiling but curious half-circle, our rebel rockers commence to play. Lawrence pulls out a harmonica and joins them in his shy way, diffidently floating round the edges. He clearly hasn’t got enough pints in yet. But Max has, or he’s simply high on the music, hunched over his guitar and leaning into the mic, singing “Stone Cold Blind!” with a passion. As for Ryotaro, he is on fire, strutting about, teasing his audience with wild flourishes of the accordion bellows. The musicians are clearly enjoying themselves and their enthusiasm is infectious as the audience responds with appreciative whoops and cheers. This is the second high point of the night. And as they replay Circus of the Sun, the song takes on a new tone, and the blessed freedom they sing of seems both proud and ecstatic…

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Text, photograph and second video by Michael Lambe. Glory Be video by John Wells. Original song lyrics by Mark Dodds. To read the rest of this story, download our book here: Deep Kyoto:Walks.

To follow the tRace elements musical tour of Kiyamachi one last time click here: The 10th & Final Kiyamachi Tour.


DeepKyoto-cover-0423-finalAbout Deep Kyoto: Walks

Deep Kyoto: Walks is an independently produced anthology of meditative strolls, rambles, hikes and ambles around Japan’s ancient capital. All of the writers and artists involved in this project have lived and worked in Kyoto for many years and know it intimately. The book is in part a literary tribute to the city that they love and in part a tribute to the art of walking for its own sake.

About-Michael-Lambe-256x300About Michael Lambe
Michael Lambe is from Middlesbrough in the North East of England. He moved to Japan in 1997 and has lived, worked and studied in Fukushima, Saitama, Tokyo and Kyoto. He has been writing the Deep Kyoto blog since 2007 and doing odd jobs for Kyoto Journal since 2009. He is the Chief Editor of the Deep Kyoto: Walks anthology and has written articles for Japan Today, Morning Calm, and Simple Things magazine.

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To learn more about Deep Kyoto: Walks please check the following links:
About the Book
Extracts
Reviews
Videos
Interviews