World Shakuhachi flute festival opens at Union Chapel
26 July, 2018 — By Sebastian Taylor
A shakuhachi Japanese bamboo flute. Left: top view, four holes. Right: bottom view, fifth hole.
Expect sensational playing of the shakuhachi, the beguiling Japanese bamboo flute, next Tuesday evening at Union Chapel, Islington. Many of the world’s most accomplished performers of the instrument are playing in the opening gala concert of the World Shakuhachi Festival. Subsequent concerts are at Goldsmiths College, south-east London.
The shakuhachi is the Japanese vertical bamboo flute made from thick-walled madake bamboo Phyllostachys bambusoides. It has four finger holes on the front and one at the back, making up a pentatonic scale. But through the meri-kari system of partial hole closing, a 12-tone chromatic scale up to three octaves can be produced.
Though simply constructed, it has an extremely wide range of musical expression. It can dramatically alter tone colour through delicate use of micro-tonal pitch changes, unique fingering and blowing techniques.
As an instrument, the shakuhachi is known by many people, but without being named or recognised. It has made appearances on film soundtracks, including the final Harry Potter films – and it’s enjoyed by many because of its deeply meditative quality.
• Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, N1, 8pm, £20/cons £15, 020 7226 1686, www.unionchapel.org.uk