Alcvin Takegawa Ramos

Zen Shakuhachi, Vol. 1

  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

The title of this album might lead the listener to expect that it was a selection of music for quiet meditation. It is indeed a collection of shakuhachi solos (and one duet), but they are not quiet or serene, and for the ear unaccustomed to the conventions of shakuhachi playing, the music can be surprisingly aggressive and jarring. Some of the pieces are so disjunct that they would not sound out of place on a recital of "modern music." In other words, this is not the ideal album to use as background music for meditation. For anyone seriously looking for an introduction to the music of the shakuhachi, though, this album succeeds beautifully in demonstrating the expressive, technical, and sonic possibilities available to the instrument. The shakuhachi (which is traditionally made of bamboo and held like a recorder, blown in the end) routinely uses a much broader palette of tonal colors than the European flute does when it's conventionally played. The extended techniques that some contemporary composers require of flutists -- bending pitch, breath tones, overtones, percussive effects -- are similar to the standard sounds the shakuhachi produces. In addition to playing the instrument, Filipino-American Alcvin Takegawa Ramos makes them, teaches extensively, and runs a shakuhachi retreat center in British Columbia. His playing is infinitely nuanced; he is able to produce exquisitely subtle gradations of tone colors, and the evocative traditional music can be haunting. The sound is clean, crisp, and very intimate. Ramos' CD should be intriguing for anyone looking for authentic performances of world music that's independent of the influence of European culture.

blue highlight denotes track pick