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:
- strings (violin, viola, cello, bass)
- pan flute
- drums and percussion, including taiko
- morin khuur (Mongolian fiddle-like instrument)
- 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!
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.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (21 days)