Prepare for an audio-visual treat

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Japanese musician Kitaro meets a children's choir for his upcoming China tour. The Grammy-winning composer and performer will bring an audio-visual experience to Chinese audiences. JIANG DONG/CHINA DAILY

New Age music guru Kitaro to launch first China tour in May, Chen Nan reports. 

During his recent visit to Beijing, Japanese musician Kitaro had a pleasant surprise.

A Chinese fan of his music showed Kitaro a guqin, an ancient seven-stringed plucked instrument from the zither family, which he had made using centuries-old wood over 18 months. The fan had listened to Kitaro's pieces for more than a decade, when he began learning how to make the guqin.

"The sound of guqin is so deep. Compared to it I am still a young man," says Kitaro, 66.

Born as Masanori Takahashi, the Grammy-winning composer and performer who is regarded as one of the founding artists of New Age music, has recorded and toured the world in the past 40 years.

His atmospheric music combines sounds from ancient instruments with synthesizers, music samples and other electronic instruments.

He will launch his first tour of China on May 1, kicking off from Xi'an, Shaanxi province, and then travel to Wuhan, Hubei province; Shanghai, Guangzhou, Guangdong province; Hangzhou, Zhejiang province; and finally Beijing. Entitled Kojiki and the Universe, the tour promises to bring an audio-visual experience to Chinese audiences that is different from others.

Kojiki, or Record of Ancient Matters, is a compilation of stories, which is about the history of Japan.

Kitaro says in his production, it is a story closely related to the evolution of the universe.

"I am creating this musical journey from the ancient to the contemporary eras for the audience. Hopefully, the tour will attract many young people," says Kitaro, who will play his signature keyboard and flute sounds during the tour.

"For each city (during the China tour), I will design something special with music and images," he adds.

Kitaro created the theme song for a TV show of Japanese national broadcaster NHK in 1980, which centers on the ancient Silk Road, a trade route that connected China with India, Central Asia and the Middle East. The show was an enormous success and got Kitaro international recognition.

"I had never visited China when I wrote music for the TV show. I tried to use my visual imagination to help me make the music. I became interested in the ancient Silk Road when I did research and wrote music for the TV show," says Kitaro, who will perform some of his music made for that TV show during his upcoming China tour.

"It was a collaboration of China and Japan. I am still learning about Chinese culture and I want to go deeper."

His concerts in China will also be joined by a children's choir. Though most of his works are without lyrics, Kitaro composed a song for an outdoor live performance, Impressions of the West Lake, conceived and directed by celebrated Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, in 2007. The song features Chinese pop star Zhang Liangying and is about Hangzhou, where the large-scale production has become a major tourist attraction.

Recalling the cooperation, Kitaro says he didn't know who would sing the song when he wrote the music but was impressed by Zhang in the recording studio, as "she has a straight voice and it took only a couple of hours to finish the recording".

"Human voice, musical instruments and synthesizers-I am trying to reach a balance among these sounds," he says, adding that sometimes technology can interfere with the quality of sound.

Kitaro's 2010 Impressions of the West Lake won the artist a nomination for best New Age album at the 52nd Grammy Awards.

But awards are nothing new to Kitaro. In 1992, he won a Golden Globe for his soundtrack for Oliver Stone's war film, Heaven and Earth. Kitaro has released more than 20 studio albums and has been nominated 17 times for the Grammys. He won a Grammy for the best New Age album for Thinking of You in 2000.

"To win an award is never a goal for me. It just happens," he says.

He jokes that he might not go for the awards if he is nominated again.

If you remember, he says, many years ago, the Grammy Awards were not like they are now. Now, it's bigger and much more about entertaining.

"Music is beyond entertainment. It is from the heart. It should be educational and communicate effectively.

"Music affects people spiritually. That's the reason I keep going," he says.

Kitaro now divides his time between San Francisco and Japan.

About three months ago, he started teaching young people in Japan with problems in communication to play music, especially percussion instruments.

"We play music in the mountains. It's a great way to help them open their hearts. I also let them touch the soil and grow vegetables in it," Kitaro says.

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