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Maestro Yasuhide Ito's (above) Concerto for Tsugaru-Shamisen will feature soloist Nobuto Yamanaka performing it with The Philharmonic Winds on Friday at the concert Sounds of Japan 3.

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Maestro Yasuhide Ito's Concerto for Tsugaru-Shamisen will feature soloist Nobuto Yamanaka (above) performing it with The Philharmonic Winds on Friday at the concert Sounds of Japan 3.

Exploring Japanese music, both past and present

Dec 23, 2016 5:50 AM

TAKE a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun - while leaving your passport at home - with a special concert, Sounds of Japan 3, presented by The Philharmonic Winds on Friday.

While the first two shows in the series featured contemporary wind music, this third edition, supported by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, aims to celebrate Japan's folk songs as well as popular culture.

The performance also marks 50 years of diplomatic relationships between Singapore and Japan and will be conducted by Japanese maestro and award-winning composer Yasuhide Ito.

A professor at Senzoku Gakuen College of Music, the latter has earned international acclaim for his compositional endeavours - more than 1,000 works including over 90 pieces for wind band or wind orchestra.

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Born in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, in 1960, the 56-year-old's musical career began with childhood piano lessons and later compositional studies while in high school, before graduating from the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music with a Bachelor of Music degree in composition.

Since then, Maestro Ito has conducted many wind orchestras around the world, including the famous Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra.

One of the highlights of Sounds of Japan 3 is his very own Concerto for Tsugaru-Shamisen (a traditional Japanese musical instrument) and Wind Band, which will feature Nobuto Yamanaka, a Master of Tsugaru-Shamisen Yamada Style (which sounds like jazz guitar).

"This is probably the only existing (composition) written for Shamisen and band - (Maestro Ito's) music has elements of folk and even rock so it's really different," says a spokesperson for The Philharmonic Winds. "The first piece of the concert, Festal Ballade, is also sort of a sequel to (one of his most popular works) Festal Scenes which he wrote long ago."

Sounds of Japan 3 aims to explore Japanese music culture across various genres - the first half will be inspired by folk songs of different regions in Japan, while the second half will feature popular theme songs from anime series such as Lupin The Third, and Chage and Aska's evergreen ballad Say Yes.

The latter was a big hit for the duo in 1991 and spent 13 consecutive weeks at the top of the Japanese Oricon weekly single charts.

The Japanese television drama 101 kaime no Propose, which the song is from, incidentally featured a scene where the actor walks into the bookstore and picks up a book by Maestro Ito.

Other surprises in Sounds of Japan 3 include a selection of Joe Hisaishi's music from Studio Ghibli's classics Porco Rosso and Spirited Away.

Japanese enka music (a form of pop that resembles traditional music stylistically) will also be in the spotlight with a version of Ue o Muite Aruk (Sukiyaki) making it onto the evening's programme. The song incidentally reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts in the United States in 1963, and remains the only Japanese-language and Asian song ever to achieve that feat.

  • The Philharmonic Winds' Sounds of Japan 3 takes place at the Esplanade Concert Hall on Dec 23 at 7.30pm. Tickets at S$15 from Sistic
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