Japanese folk musician Baisho Matsumoto was invited to the Saratoga campus on May 19 to perform and give a brief but informative introduction to two instruments central to Japan’s musical tradition. Matsumoto started off by playing the shamisen, a three-stringed instrument similar to a lute or banjo that is played with a plectrum called a bachi. He demonstrated both the “kabuki” style, which involves playing and singing simultaneously to accompany kabuki performances, and the “tsugaru” style, a more aggressive and rhythmic method based on improvisation.
Matsumoto also introduced the audience to the shakuhachi, a Japanese flute made from bamboo, playing a medley of Japanese folk songs and, to the audience’s amusement, a small selection of American songs, including “Yankee Doodle.”
He ended his show with a pair of Japanese folk songs that featured a little bit of crowd participation, and before leaving said a few words in English about his hope that bringing Japanese tradition to American shores will help unite the two cultures.