Shakuhachi Blues


Shakuhachi Blues

That waver,
like the end of a long

dream flickering to wakefulness,
or an origami crane

unfolding between whiskey
poured and the tale of deceit

and a good woman done wrong.
Air flutters through this bamboo

tube, and it seems I control
nothing. Inhaling, I try again.


A simple instrument that will take a lifetime to learn…

15 thoughts on “Shakuhachi Blues

  1. When I was researching my Ph.D dissertation I would often be up all night and occasionally would take my shakuhachi or ney flute to my university’s giant rotunda and play (usually around 3 am). That breathy sound being naturally amplified and echoed would sound so unearthly. The ney in particular would stop people in their tracks, as mine was a Persian ney which is much raspier and breathier than all the other reed or bamboo flutes. The oldest and simplest of instruments going back thousands of yers and yet reeds/bamboo are so incredibly difficult to sound with any true beauty. So believe me, any frustrations you have with your shak make you yet another member of an ancient brotherhood/sisterhood of people who have experienced what you have.

    When I lived in Osaka I would very frequently travel to Kyoto and on a clear night with a full moon you could always hear someone playing their shak off in the darkness somewhere…

    Liked by 2 people

      • The “regular” Arabian ney (“nai”) and the Persian ney have very distinct sounds. Hassan Kassai was the great master of the Persian style, so listening to him will give you a sense of how the ney sounds when blown in the Persian style (the edge of the flute placed against the gap of the front teeth). The Arabian nai is blown like the shakuhachi (like air over a bottle top).

        The ney sounds dramatic, and is used in Hollywood movies when the soundtrack is used to portray the Middle East as “mystical”. When Hollywood movies want to portray “the Middle East is beautiful” they use the nai. When Hollywood wants to portray something as exotic, kind of “depressingly Middle Eastern”, they use the Armenian duduk, as it is very reedy and brash sounding (at least in Hollywood soundtracks). The duduk itself is extremely hard to play and only has a range of one octave (!), but when played softly it is so incredibly beautiful. You will NEVER hear an instrument that sounds as sad as a duduk, no matter what kind of song is being played.

        My personal favorite is the great master Kassai though. Here is a video where he demonstrates the Persian style (embouchure demonstration, then actual flute playing starting after 2:30).

        Liked by 1 person

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