Musicians from all over Asia bring their traditional instruments to the Tokyo stage
In a powerful show of musical solidarity, 32 musicians with diverse cultural backgrounds recently brought the indigenous instruments of 14 Asian countries to the stage of the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall for the “One Asia Concert 2017”.
“One Asia”, a cultural project launched in 2013 to commemorate 40 years of Asean-Japan relationship is perhaps the grandest and most ambitious musical endeavour to showcase the uniqueness of Asian instruments. Since its inaugural event with Angkor Wat in Cambodia as the backdrop, there have been concerts in all 10 Asean countries and each has enjoyed an enthusiastic reception.
The performance at the Tokyo Opera City in the heart of Shinjuku, considered one of the world’s top 10 concert halls, brought in new members from The People’s Republic of China, South Korea and Taiwan.
At the core of the project is the Aun J Classic Orchestra of eight critically acclaimed Japanese musicians who play traditional instruments. Over the past five years, its members have split into smaller groups and travelled to the 10 Asean members to learn about local instruments and lay the groundwork for each concert.
Ryohei Inoue, leader of Aun J Classic Orchestra and the project’s artistic director, told The Nation that this year’s concert was very special for his group because after five years of travelling and hard work, the project had returned to Japan for the first time.
“Since the first concert in 2013, the theme of our orchestra has evolved from ‘exchange’ to ‘sympathy resonance’ and ‘joint creativity’. This year we would like to propose ‘Kyoen’, a coinage that amalgamates ‘sound’, ‘performance’ and ‘home’, signifying that each country has a culture that stays deeply rooted at home, but through music can travel freely through all borders,” Inoue said.
The performance, which saw all the musicians collaborating to bring out the uniqueness of the instruments, was truly an “Asian Miracle” as it marked the first time ever that musicians with different languages and cultures had come together as a single orchestra, managing both precision and pure elegance.
The concert opened with all members performing original compositions by members of the orchestra, and a surprise take on Ravel’s “Bolero”, which proved the timelessness of this European masterpiece even when rendered by Asian instruments.
The highlight of the evening was the “Asian medley”, with musicians from each country performing their own traditional instruments and then in harmony with their Aun J members, providing both entertaining and intriguing moments.
Thailand was represented by Boy Thai Band’s members, Paron Yuenyong and Arnon Suttjaridjun and they selected the popular Thai tune “Kang Kao Gin Gluay”, which began with Arnon’s rousing performance on the seven drum perng mang khok followed by a breathtaking display on the ranad ake (xylophone) by Paron. They were joined by Shin Ichikawa on the koto and Hideki Onoue on the shamisen. They concluded with the “Glong Yao”, the Long Drum song, with all the musicians singing and clapping to cheers and applause from the 1,600-strong audience.
The concert ended with a true culmination of five years of effort, as all members pooled their talents to present the biggest showcase of Asian instruments to date. The “One Asia” finale prompted a standing ovation from the enthusiastic crowd, signalling to the world that a new force in music is emerging from the East.
This is truly music that has stayed firmly at “home” over the centuries yet knows no frontiers.
The day after, the entire orchestra took part in the “Shinjuku Asia Lovers Festival 2017” in Shinjuku Central park that offered the sights, sounds and smells of Asia, with Thailand’s signature phad thai and krapao gai proving the most popular.