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Inspirational Japan

Ty Burhoe

Dear friends,
Welcome back to my stories from the road. This past 9 months has been a time of many events and tours back to back for me and indeed many shifts and changes for us all. It is good to be able to write again and spend some time reflecting on the journey of my life with you. 
My last entry was my powerful and moving trip to Japan right after 3/11 Earthquake and Tsunami. I will begin my diary again with my fall Japan tour which took place from the end of August through the beginning of October. 

Maacha tea - nectar of the Gods & Goddesses!!!


As tradition has it, I started the fall tour with the annual Obubu Yoga / Sound Retreat in Wazuka Japan. This was the third year Matsu-san and I have hosted this retreat and it has become such a beautiful community of people.

The vibration of the tea fields, mountains, Temples and the desire of the people to find a new, inspired day and a fresh perspective on life is what makes this retreat special. Each person is willing to go inside them selves - working and living together for those days, creating a conscious community to better ourselves and the world we live in. We are also very blessed at this retreat to have the support of the Kontaiji Temple monks who take us each year up to the sacred waterfalls in the mountains. This waterfall has been used by the mountain monks and samurai as a training spot for meditation for hundreds of years. This year we were told by the monks that it is highly unusual to have rainbows appear there, yet they appeared all around us as we did the training, it was a rare blessing and each one of us felt it. 

Obubu Yoga & Sound Retreat - At the sacred monk training waterfall.

Kanji Okada, head priest of Kontaiji Temple after waterfall training.


From the retreat, I traveled to Kyoto where I had a couple of events at Studio Yoggy. We did our annual Musical Universe workshop where some of my dear friends came to for a second, third or fourth time. We are at a point now where we can have more advanced levels for this workshop. So in the next year I have decided to host a couple of more focused workshops where we can spend a full weekend diving deeper.

Musical Universe Workshops

Kyoto Musical Universe workshop!!! Translator Seiko Kimura


Then the same day as the workshop, we held an intimate fusion concert featuring Akihisa Kominato, a high level shakuhachi maestro, Yukie Satoh a wonderful Odissi dancer, Steve Oda on sarode and myself on tabla. It was a concert with no plan and no rehearsals. So we all agreed that we would just improvise and create a weaving in the moment. Wow, what a treat!!! 

Kyoto concert - Yukie Satoh, Akihisa Kominato, Steve & Ty

The wonderful Kyoto Studio Yoggy staff.


Next we moved to Nagoya where Yukie Satoh produced a wonderful fusion event at a classical music theater. She is one of those artists who applies the same amount of care to her event producing as she applies to her dance art form. Before the concert there was a roof top meal served for the audience and artists. This event gave the trio from the Kyoto concert to move deeper into playing together but added santoor maestro Setsuo Miyashita (Jimi-san). So we had such amazing sounds and diverse soundscapes to draw from. It was a great event!!!

Concert in Nagoya - Setsuo Miyashita, Yukie Satoh, Akihisa Kominato, Steve & Ty


After this the Nagoya concert Jimi-san took Steve and I to Gifu where we stayed for a couple of days relaxing in our friend Tomonori Nozaki's restaurant, healing center in the beautiful Gifu mountains. We had the rich sound of the river running by our rooms singing to us while we slept and practiced music. I got to meet some of Jimi-san's students who are playing quite well and will join the forces of young musicians representing Japan's Indian classical music scene soon. If you are ever in the mountain area of Gifu in your travels, please stop by and have a meal at this beautiful healing center and tell them Ty sent you!!! You'll love it. 

Owner of the Ganjin Koiudo healing center, great chief and
wonderful human being
Tomonori Nozaki

The wonderful healing center and vegetarian restaurant Gangin Kojudo.

Little tabla workshop at Ganjin Koiudo
(the two on the left are Jimi-san's santoor students also).


Jimi-san also is one of those musicians who has a gift in organizing events and he is responsible for creating the annual Gifu Sangeet Mela for the past 14 years. This was a wonderful event for me to be a part of because I was able to meet so many great artists from all over Japan. There were Kathak, Odissi and Bharatanatyam dancers as well as many Instrumentalists, singers, pakawaj, ghatam and tabla players. It was a full night concert and Steve Oda and I played from around 12:30 until around 1:30am and then a trio piece with Odissi dancer Yukie Satoh which ended around 2am. It was a very hot and combined with me having a fever, I can say that I have never sweat on stage so much in my life... I might as well have jumped into the bath tub on stage... It is always interesting trying to play under such conditions and maintain some sense of grace and composure. 

This night was very important for me on a deeper level as well. Something switched and opened inside me to uncover a new horizon of potential that I didn't see coming. A big full moon, the meeting of Souls and reaching into the musical heart can do that when conditions are right (Dhvani).

And that same night at 3am, we jumped into a van with 5 other musicians to drive the 7 hours up to Tokyo for a mid-afternoon concert featuring three wonderful concerts back to back. (photos below) This event was produced by Taro Terahara's wife Yuriko-san who is a totally amazing producer and supporter of the arts. She gave us an over flowing, sold out music loving audience in a high level theater in down town Tokyo. We were all of course quite tired, but the music and company kept our spirits souring high. 

Indian music festival in Tokyo produced by Yuriko Terahara

Fumie Negishi (vocal) & Ayako Ikeda (tabla)

Taro Terahara (bansuri) & Shen Flindell (tabla)

Amit Roy (sitar) & U-zhaan (tabla)

Steve Oda (sarode) & Ty Burhoe (tabla)


The blessing of this life cannot be counted once we sit in a posture of thankfulness. Even through difficult times and during times of change, there is always the comfortable seat within us where we can sit in thankfulness. From here we can find "ease of heart" and find the fresh air to follow that can lead us to a safe and common ground.


Then came a very special event which was a highlight of my musical year. My dear friend Hiromi Kubota who also happens to be a wonderful Indonneasian dancer, produced the "Spirit of Asia" concert in Tokyo featuring two of Japans great young artists, Yutaka Oyama (shamisen) and Akihisa Kominato (shakuhachi). These two musicians are fully rooted in their traditions and are highly respected for carrying their traditions forward, but they also are able to free their minds from those guide lines and play fully improvised music. I found that we were able to weave in elements of jazz, blues, rock and totally open landscapes. The rhythmic interplay with Yutaka-san reminded me of the sparks and explosive runs that i use to have in the band Curandero with guitarist Miguel Espinoza. Swimming in the joyous ocean of rhythm. And few people know this, but I use to play a little shakuhachi many years back and it has always been a love of mine. Aki-san's playing is exactly what I dreamed of all those years ago and now we get to play together. His control and freedom on the instrument is mind blowing when you understand how difficult an instrument the shakuhachi is. 

So the trio had one rehearsal and then the concert. It is always amazing to me to play with artists who can just show up and create an entire evening of music based on little or no preparation. Of course I also love the deepening that happens musically when artists really get to know one another, so we'll get to have the best of both worlds as we develop music for this trio in the years to come. We have a Japan tour under works for next September. And starting in 2013 I hope to start touring with them in other countries, so keep your eyes pealed for when we come to your area.

Spirit of Asia Trio - Yutaka Oyama (shamisen) / Akihisa Kominato (shakuhachi) / Ty (tabla)

Trio performing live at CAY in Tokyo

Akihisa Kominato & Ty exploring... 

Yutaka Oyama & Ty having a blast!!

Akihisa Kominato / Ty / Yutaka Oyama


Following the trio concerts I had several smaller events around Tokyo including a couple of Musical Universe workshops. These workshops are deepening to a point now where the need for a manual text book is needed for people to be able to continue their studies. And as a matter of fact, I recently have been contracted to write two books which will be due by the end of 2014. One of these books will focus on stories and adventures from my life and the amazing people I have had the blessing of spending time with. This book will directly tie into the topics within the Musical Universe. The second book (s) will be a text book for understanding and deepening the practice of Nada Yoga and the Musical Universe. I am very excited to write these books provided i can find the time between the tours :) But to have a means to share this topic with musicians, therapists and people of all backgrounds will be deeply fulfilling to me. 

Yoga Spot Teachers Training workshop in Yokohama.

Nirmal Yoga "Musical Universe" workshop in Tokyo.


Much of the help I receive to be able to do the work I do in Japan is because of a few close friends and mostly has been Kaori Mizuno. She is my Tala Records Tokyo based assistant and does lots of my booking, flyer design and translation for the Japan tours. Heart felt thanks and many blessings to her and all the wonderful people who help make my visits possible.

Kaori-san & Kazuyo Kaneko (amazing latin dancer) at an event after party.
It is always an important un-winding and fun filled part of the night.


Then began the next phase of the tour with my dear friend and sitar maestro Shubhendra Rao. This portion of the tour was produced by my student Jun Haraguchi and her partner Shinya Ando (santoor player). They arranged a separate producer in each of the 4 cities we did concerts in who were all wonderful and generous. In Niigata we had Saito Isamu (sitarist) and Mika Yamashita. In Nagoya we had Jun-san (tabla) and Shinya-san (santoor). In Kyoto we had Bayan-san (tabla) and in Tokyo we had Reiko Watahiki who is a great lover of the music. It was so fun, because many of the producers from the other cities also came along to the other concerts. So we had a kind of musical caravan happening across central Japan. 

Tour Poster


Shubhendra and Ty leaning on Jun-san's cute little car!

Tour producers Saito-san, Jun-san, Shinya-san and translator Ayako Saito in Nagoya.

Niigata sitarist and producer Saito-san and Gifu santoor player and producer Shinya-san.


I am again and again deeply moved by the hard work and care given to most everything in Japan. To find that quality in the producers, students and audience for music is truly a gift. The process of sharing the love of the arts and witnessing the opening of a heart is worth all the years of hard work developing these pathways to music lovers around the world. Japan and it's people are an inspiration to the rest of the world in all these ways!

Kyoto tabla player and producer Bayan-san.

Tabla workshop in Nagoya.

Staff of Tribal Arts - wonderful vegetarian restaurant & organic shop in Nagoya.

Reiko Watahiki and the Tokyo concert dream team!!!


After the tour with Shubhendra finished, my friend David Wheeler from Boulder Colorado came to Tokyo who happens to be a maestro of the shakuhachi and lived in Tokyo for over 20 years. We decided to arrange a last minute duet concert in one of Tokyo's oldest Shinto Shrines. It was such an honor to be invited to participate in the opening ceremony inside the sacred center of the Shrine. The private, mid-day concert was a real treat and was followed by a delicious lunch by the generous presenters. Again, it was a pleasure to be able to sit down with a musician with no plan or rehearsal and present a musical experience for people. David is one of those great musicians.

Shakuhachi maestro David Wheeler & Ty after a duet concert in Tokyo.


Another highlight of this tour was the concerts with jazz guitarist Yukihiro Atsumi and tap dancer Saro. If I ever wanted to clean out the expressive sonic pipes inside me, playing with these guys is the medicine. It is incredible how free the music is with Yukihiro-san. The closest thing I have experiences to it is playing with piano virtuoso Art Lande. The way Yukihiro-san likes to design the music is with perhaps 15% clean, clear melodic head or theme, and then 85% totally open improvisation. As he often says, "we create the mood, and then we go to the stars". 

It is amazing working with Saro on a rhythmic level because he not only is trained in traditional tap, but also in hip hop and jazz and actually has gone to India (Benares) to study Kathak and tabla which makes him one of the most cutting edge tap dancers on the planet. Between he and I, we create quite the engine to drive Yukihiro's melodic adventures. 

This is another trio which I would love to bring over to other countries so you can also experience the musical wilderness we wonder into. I will do more concerts with them in 2012 as well as some recording... I have put a video clip below of one of the short songs we did in a Tokyo club. Hope you enjoy!


Concerts with guitarist Yukihiro Atsumi & tap dancer Saro.

Yukihiro Atsumi in the studio during the session.

Clip from our concert in Tokyo - FUN !!!!!!!


This tour was so richly diverse and so enlivening musically. I feel that many different facets of my musical personality were honored and satisfied by the fantastic musicians I was blessed to play with. In so many ways, music can be a guiding light into deeper realizations about our lives. This goes for listening to music, in learning music or in performing music. As i have said before, leaning into new worlds requires risk taking. This principal appears in all aspects of our lives, both in the day to day "normal" life as well as in the "dream time" world of the shaman. As in the vision quest of the Native American Indian, where only when we travel to the boundaries of the comfortable and familiar, do we finally expose our vulnerable, open Soul, and that meeting we have been waiting for our whole life can happen between the bear (kuma) and the mountain lion (puma) and the sheer power of being alive can be experienced. 

The journey from 3/11 to 10/11 shows the ability of our Japanese family to find that "new day" and find the great hope to rise up inspired in the face of such difficult times. This is the trait of a true musician, to listen to what is true in the moment, and from this, feel what action is appropriate to move towards to a fresh and honest state of being. It may not always be a harmonically pretty journey, but the power that is present within an authentic expression is far greater than society has taught us. It is our natural state to glow with compassion, kindness, humor and passion. These qualities arise naturally as we learn how to discover and simply "be ourselves" - letting the pressure inside us equalize with the pressure in the natural world around us.  

I wish you all a beautiful December and I'll be posting an entry soon from my recent tour in Australia with violin maestro Kala Ramnath. 

Much love,