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Kaoru Watanabe: a rare musician who traverses the traditional music forms both East and West, classical and contemporary, predetermined and improvisational. His expertise in taiko drumming and bamboo flutes gives his music both force with extreme delicacy. His superb musicianship makes him a joy to create with. He enriches any musical situation with his unique perspective.
— Jason Moran (Jazz Pianist, Blue Note Recording Artist)
 

Hello friends and family,

I'm writing this the day after returning from a week at Avaloch Farm- a beautiful ranch deep in the New Hampshire countryside where composers, soloists and chamber ensembles are provided an environment conducive to developing new works. 

I was a part of the PAN Project, a new ensemble that features forward-thinking musicians of traditional instruments from China, Korea and Japan. We spent hours upon hours teaching each other melodies and rhythms as well as improvising together. We spent even more hours discussing our traditions, our instruments as well as our personal artistic processes. We devoted a great deal of time to understanding the various ways to preserve the essential qualities of our respective musics while creating a unified ensemble sound. These discussions ranged in topic from intonation, embellishments, compositional structures, timbre, and volume (the talk about whether to amplify or not took a good part of one morning). We spoke of the various subtle differences between the court musics, theater musics, festival music, shamanistic musics, ritual music, secular musics of our respective countries, as well as how we blend with musics of other styles of music and other countries. One theme that kept coming up was the desire of all musicians involved to find authenticity within themselves and a desire to make music without compromise.

I found myself constantly referring to the many collaborations I've had over the last couple of decades and reflect on how my work continues to rely on the influx of information and inspiration gleaned from these collaborations. I have performed with Mongolian throat singers, dancers from Burkina Faso, stilt dancers from the Ivory Coast, Indian tabla players, electro-acoustic hurdy-gurdy players, Galician bag-pipe players, steel pan players in Trinidad, Romanian brass bands, Brazilian capoeiristas, Polynesian nose flute players and on and on. Due to lack of time or funding, a couple of these interactions were one-off jam session type situations. Most however, involved in-depth back and forth exchanges, like the one described above. I often walk away from all these projects with more questions than answers but at least I feel like my questions are getting better.

This coming week I will be continuing along this path, teaching and leading ensembles for Silk Road Project's Global Musician Workshop at the Tanglewood Music Festival. Other things happening this month include performing with Gamin, a master musician of Korean traditional music and fearless improvisor and bassist Edward Perez and my continued work with a group of LGBTQ youth at the New Museum as part of Simone Leigh's important exhibition Waiting Room. 

A few great reviews of my new album Néo are popping up here and there. Please read them here:

Drum!, Feature story, 07/07/2016, Kaoru Watanabe
Songlines, Album review, 07/01/2016, Asia Reviews Attachment
All About Jazz, Album review, 04/13/2016, Kaoru Watanabe: Néo Text
RootsWorld, Album review, 06/10/2016, Kaoru Watanabe talks with RootsWorld:s Tyran Grillo about his latest work, Néo Text

And here are a few upcoming shows this month:

8/4 - 9 Silkroad Project Global Musician Workshop @Tanglewood Music Festival
8/27 Rubens Salles @the Cornelia Street Cafe Brazil Festival|10.30pm|$20 cover includes a drink
8/28 Kaoru Watanabe with Gamin and Edward Perez @ the Cornelia Street Cafe Percussion Festival|8.30pm|$20 cover includes a drink

Thank you for your continued support!


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