G.S. PAUL

The Biwa and the Koto were played by Japanese artistes who participated in a Koodiyattom fete at Irinjalakuda.

Music fans at Natanakairali Auditorium, Irinjalakuda, were regaled by the recital of two ancient Japanese musical instruments. The Biwa and the Koto, traditional musical instruments of Japan, were presented as part of the Koodiyattom festival held under the auspices of the Ammannur Gurukulam.While the renowned storyteller Kazuko Furuya used the Biwa as an accompaniment, Nanae Yoshimure presented an enthralling recital of both classical and contemporary music on the Koto.Kazuko began by describing her instrument, which, according to her, had its origin in the Middle East and had reached Japan via China. Initially, although it was played only in the royal courts, it reached the common man thanks to great masters like Heike. Buddhist monks used to play the instrument during storytelling sessions meant for popularising Buddhist teachings. The five strings, made of silk, are plucked by a large triangular plectrum. The five frets are also very big in size. With the Biwa in her hand, Kazuko narrated three stories, partly in English and Japanese, among which `Oguri' was a love story with spiritual overtones. Endowed with exceptional histrionic talents, she mimicked all the mythical characters in the story, which elicited applause from the audience. She used the Biwa to embellish her narration in ingenious ways. The Koto, a multi-stringed and heavy instrument, was introduced in Japan from China during the seventh and eighth centuries. The six-foot-long strings are held tautly on a curved wooden plank and balanced on movable bridges. Finger picks are fixed on the thumb, the forefinger and the middle finger of the right hand for plucking the strings. Nylon strings give bigger and brighter colours to the tones of the instrument. The possibility of oscillating the pitch by pressing on the strings by the left hand enables the musician to create amazing musical expressions.

Classical numbers

Nanae Yoshimure opened by playing two classical numbers. The variation of the tempo, and the modulation of the notes she wove were eloquent demonstrations of her musical prowess. The second piece was accompanied by vocal rendition as well. But the contemporary numbers that she chose for the latter part of her concert entailed more techniques of plucking and therefore appeared more vibrant. The playing was so dexterously executed that she appeared to be a one-man orchestra during that part of the recital. Moreover, all the 21 strings were used for the pieces on contemporary music while only 13 were employed for classical music.