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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

New Album From Sixth-Generation Shakuhachi Master Araki Kodo VI

In April of 1988, at the age of 17, Hanzaburo Araki picked up the instrument of his father and grandfathers for the first time. Four months later, at a sold-out concert in Shimonoseki, Japan, before contemporaries and enthusiasts, he made his debut to the exacting standards of his father, Araki Kodo V

For the next four years he played and instructed extensively in Japan, both privately and at Keio University, during which time he was named Baikyoku IV, setting him in line to continue the family tradition.

Upon returning to the United States he continued to play and teach at several prestigious institutions. A panel leader and workshop host at the Seattle Folklife Festival, Araki has performed every year from 1998 to 2012. He has also performed for the Gates Estate, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Asian Art Museum and at the Japanese Gardens (Seattle and Portland). In 2009, he was named Araki Kodo VI by his father in a small ceremony in Tokyo.

Hanz Araki is one of the best Irish traditional flute players in the US. He’s also a sixth-generation shakuhachi master from a prestigious lineage of Japanese masters. He received the hereditary title of Araki Kodo VI from his father, and now he’s releasing his first solo album of Japanese shakuhachi music. It’s absolutely beautiful, made up of traditional repertoire from his family and performed on a skahuhachi that was handmade by his great-great-grandfather.

Perhaps no other instrument in the traditional music of Japan is as easily recognizable as the shakuhachi; an end-blown, bamboo flute. Originally played by itinerant monks as a form of meditation, it has endured centuries of change throughout Japan’s history. For six generations, the Araki family has shepherded this tradition under the name of Kodō.

Named for his great-great grandfather, Hanzaburō made his professional debut in 1988 in Japan only four months after his first lesson from his father. In 2009, the name Kodō was bestowed upon him by his father to become the sixth in his family’s lineage to bear this title. This legacy continues to be the most influential in the genre, offering an unbroken connection to the roots of this haunting music.

In the midst of a catastrophic year for the performing arts, there was a silver lining: Araki was able to take possession of an extremely rare flute made by his great-great-grandfather. The unexpected reunification with a shakuhachi made by his namesake, the isolation of the pandemic, and over 30 years in the music industry, created an apt circumstance for a recording to honor the flute, his father, and grandfathers. 2021 also marks the 250th year since the passing of Kinkō Ryū founder Kurosawa Kinkō (1710-1771).

In January of 2021, he released an album titled Hankyō (Reverberation) with both traditional and more contemporary compositions. The two traditional pieces bookend this collection; Akita Sugagaki, (Ode to Akita) and Kumoi Jishi (Where There Are Clouds). Also featured are Tsuki no Kyoku (Song of the Moon), composed by Kodō II, and a piece written by Kodō V called Dōkyō, (Copper Mirror) which recontextualizes traditional technique into a more modern, but still decidedly non-Western, setting.


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