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Three shamisen masters creating a landmark album, fusing the traditional Japanese instrument with folk music from around the world!
Three shamisen masters creating a landmark album, fusing the traditional Japanese instrument with folk music from around the world!
56 backers pledged $6,297 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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$6,297

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Meet the Shamisen

Hi, I'm Kyle Abbott, and I play the tsugaru shamisen, a Japanese three stringed banjo from Northern Japan, played with a spatula-like plectrum. But don't let that simplistic description fool you. The sharp percussion from plectrum strikes, combined with the virtually limitless melodic abilities, make the tsugaru shamisen one of the most captivating instruments. I started dabbling with the shamisen when I was 16. I'm now 23 and haven't stopped.

Over the past few years, I've become very involved with the global shamisen community, going so far as to write the first English-language book on the shamisen, and establishing the first online community dedicated to the instrument, which I've dubbed Bachido.

About This CD

This CD is not only unique because the main instrument is shamisen. It's also very unique among shamisen-based albums in Japan. Generally, there are two kinds of shamisen albums. First: traditional Japanese music with traditional style shamisen and other Japanese instrumentation or vocals. Second: modern fusion, usually a backup instrumentation with shamisen loudly in the foreground screaming, "Hey look! A shamisen can play with other instruments!" Don't get me wrong, it's great that the shamisen is being used in modern music. However, when my two friends and shamisen legends Kevin Kmetz and Masahiro Nitta invited me to Japan to record this album, I wanted to make it unique; an album with the shamisen appropriately included in an diverse ensemble, not the shamisen solely standing out in front of the ensemble.

Around this time in 2012, I started Bachido, an international community for shamisen players to come together around the world. On this website, there are shamisen enthusiasts from Europe, Australia, Canada, America, South America, and of course, Japan. With this world-based community building, we decided that the theme of this album should be about combining shamisen with music from world cultures (for example, Bolivia, Russia, and Tuva). Surprisingly, we found that shamisen fits in with... well, pretty much anything!

What's Been Done

First, Masahiro Nitta (a National Shamisen Champion in Japan, by the way) invited me to Sapporo Japan to record all of the shamisen tracks in his recording studio, along with Kevin Kmetz.

After returning to California, many talented musician friends helped me to add other instrumentation and vocals to the tracks, including: 

  • guitar
  • mandolin
  • strings (violin, viola, cello, bass)
  • pan flute
  • drums and percussion, including taiko
  • morin khuur (Mongolian fiddle-like instrument)
  • accordion
  • Tuvan throat singing
  • Classical countertenor singing

The recordings turned out great! But I could only accomplish so much with my own mixing skills, so I took it to the professionals at Gadgetbox Studios who turned a full (but unpolished) mix into musical food for the soul.

Listen to these samples!

What's Needed?

I've done my best to keep costs to a minimum, handling as many aspects of the project myself as possible. However, between the professional mixing and mastering, travel expenses to bring all the musicians together, and other costs, I've had to take out a few thousand dollars in loans. I'm asking for your help to repay these loans and fund the project. Thank you!

Risks and challenges

Luckily, there is virtually no risk involved with the project at this stage.

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Support this project

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Thank you for your support! We'll put your name down as a supporter on the Stellar album web page on Bachido.com (if you wish). (This reward applies to all donations above $5 as well.)

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  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $12 or more About $12

    The album! We'll send you a digital download of the album in MP3 format once the album is released on July 24th.

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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Pre-release album! Be the first to hear the finished album in its entirety! Receive a PRE-RELEASE digital download of the album in MP3 format on July 10th, TWO WEEKS before the release date.

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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Pre-release copy of the album PLUS Kyle will record a fun, individualized "thank you" video for you and post it on YouTube.

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    6 backers
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Pre-release copy of the album, individualized "thank you" video, PLUS half an hour of one-on-one webcam time with Kyle! You can use it for a shamisen lesson, construction advice, or just about anything you want. (Note: He will not be removing his clothes.)

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Pre-release copy of the album, individualized "thank you" video, 30 minute Skype session with Kyle, PLUS a physical copy of Masahiro's newest solo shamisen album, DNA!

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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    BIG gift package! Get a pre-release copy of the album, individualized "thank you" video, 30 minute Skype session with Kyle, plus Masahiro's new "DNA" CD, PLUS a Stellar CD and Bachido saofuki, each signed by Kyle Abbott, Kevin Kmetz, and Masahiro Nitta!

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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $600 or more About $600

    Wowza! Pre-release copy of the album, individualized "thank you" video, 30 minute Skype session with Kyle, Masahiro's new "DNA" CD, signed Stellar CD and Bachido saofuki... AND a bag of Bachido coffee... AND, one of the members of Monsters of Shamisen will record a cover of the song of your choice on the shamisen, upload it to YouTube, and dedicate it to you.

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    Pledge $1,200 or more About $1,200

    Everything above, PLUS Kyle will write and record a song in your honor. You can give input as to what you'd like the song to be about, or just let him go wild, up to you.

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    Reward no longer available 1 backer
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Funding period

- (21 days)