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YO in concert — world music at its creative best

By Laura Moore
Special to The PREVIEW

Photo courtesy PSAC YO brings a spectacular blend of Asian and Indian sounds to the stage at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8.

Photo courtesy PSAC
YO brings a spectacular blend of Asian and Indian sounds to the stage at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8.

“YO The Spirit of Asia!” will be presented by the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts on Friday, Nov. 8, at 7 p.m.

This will be an evening journey into the heart of Japan and soul of India with three of the leading world music maestros: Yutaka Oyama on shamisen (three-stringed fretless lute), bamboo flute virtuoso Akihisa Kominato on shakuhachi (bamboo flute of the samurai, and internationally acclaimed Ty Burhoe on tabla (classical Indian hand drums).

“YO” means “The World” or “World Community.”  The music of YO presents the ancient traditions of Japan and India in a fresh, creative and inspired vision.

This will be a celebration of culture and community, and a magical evening of music, straight from Tokyo. It is an event not to be missed.

Tickets are $22 and are available at www.pagosacenter.org or by calling 731-SHOW.

Music that is traditional 

The music of India is a continuous tradition of over 4,000 years.  The rhythmic tradition of the tabla stems directly from its predecessor, the pakawaj, which took its rhythmic form from the drum preceding it.  So, the tradition itself is very old and very vast.

Burhoe was trained over the past 23 years by the world’s great legend of the tabla, Ustad Zakir Hussain.  The training in tabla is deep and intensely classical.  In order to produce the tones and articulate the compositions of the tabla in a traditional way, one needs to study with a teacher who themselves can truly play and understand the tradition.  So, for example, there are 20 or so separate tones or syllables that the drum can produce and, if you learn those properly, they can be put together in much the same way we use words in English to create phrases, to tell stories and share poetry.  It takes a long time to learn the traditional language of the tabla, but the ability to communicate its many rhythmic ideas within a musical setting is well worth the effort.

The other two musicians in YO have spent their lives training within the Japanese traditions and have undergone the same rigorous regimen.  That is one of the strong connecting points for members of the band, since they all know a deep aspect of the path the others have chosen and have persevered on over the years.  There is a deep respect for one another, which gets transmitted through the vibration of their music.

Music that is contemporary

Since the rhythmic training of the tabla, the shakuhachi or the shamisen is so intricate, it allows many of the open-minded players to emulate the music of other traditions and also create fresh and funky rhythms and melodies that are custom fit to whatever music is at hand.

In Burhoe’s case, he has travelled the world and often found himself in concert situations with unusual instruments or combinations of instruments.  He has developed a flexible mind and uses the language of tabla to try to support the musicians with whom he plays  Just two weeks ago, he was in Kyoto, Japan, where he played a duet concert with a traditional Japanese instrument, the koto — a large, long-stringed instrument, which is plucked and on which strings are bent across movable frets.  For this concert, he tried to find tones and grooves that blended with the koto’s voice.  From there, Ty went to Hiroshima where he collaborated with a flute player from India and a Peruvian pan pipe flute player.  Again, he uses the same language building blocks of the tabla to put together something custom for each of those musicians.

The YO trio strives to find new sonic landscapes and inspirational settings for their individual voices and spirits.

The instruments

Tabla — a set of hand drums.  One is a high-pitched drum with a bell-like tone and very intricate fast rolls.  The other drum has a bass tone and is pushed with the palm of the hand to bend the pitch.  It sounds somewhat like a double bass and can get up to an octave and a half of notes.  The two drums are played together to create an amazing variety of tones, colors and rhythms.

Shamisen — a three-stringed lute with a skinned body (similar to a banjo) and a long, thin neck, which has no frets. Its sound is liquid and melodious. An interesting aspect of this instrument is the pick used to pluck the strings — it is a large and quite heavy triangular pick made from bone, ivory or antler, and is used like a percussion instrument against the skinned body.  This is a very sophisticated lute, both melodically and rhythmically.

Shakuhachi — a five-hole bamboo flute played straight down in front of the body.  It is known as the most difficult of all the members of the flute family and was originally a flute used for breathing and meditative practices by monks in ancient Japan. Because the shakuhachi has only five holes, it is necessary for the player to use an incredible amount of bending and air flow gymnastics to create the powerful and haunting sounds of the instrument.

This story was posted on October 31, 2013.