Throughout the entire history of the festival, we have debated and developed the idea of how it should operate and shape the perception of the shakuhachi in Europe and the Czech Republic. The year 2012 was in many senses ground-breaking, as we instigated several new concepts, including revised concert formats, master-classes and other program features.

Although, we began the event as the Prague Shakuhachi Summer School, it soon became clear that this event was not only to benefit the shakuhachi community, but also present the shakuhachi and its music to the public while maintaining its lofty aesthetical foundations. Since its inception, the event encapsulated a variety of concerts focusing on different genres. Some of you perhaps still remember the unique performance of Christopher Yohmei and poet James Ragan, an Emerson Prize winner, performed to an audience of about thirty people in the cellar of a literary cafe in Prague’s Old Town. This performance presaged the identity of the festival as an event that successfully combines the traditional spiritual music of the instrument with contemporary approaches to art and music.

In following years, the festival provided a platform for visual, sound and video artists along with performers from across the globe to present their art in collaboration with shakuhachi players. Thus, effectively, the shakuhachi has become a venture point through which people can experience new ideas in art and music.

In order for the shakuhachi to better integrate itself into the European art scene, we deemed that the event should be aimed especially toward intellectuals and the artistic community. Furthermore, we maintain that supporting interaction between shakuhachi players and other artist is crucial for the instrument to step out of the sometimes narrow-minded ethnological discourse of Japanese culture events. It is crucial to present the shakuhachi and its traditions as something very meaningful in the contemporary world and its music. The traditional music of the shakuhachi and some of its derivations in contemporary music (with its specific approaches to pitch, rhythm and melody) provide the musical discourse with a genuine, and, at the same time, effective alternative to Western classical and popular music. In a time when neo-liberalism is fashionable in both music and society, we need a viable and functioning alternative. The Prague Shakuhachi Festival, in its own way, hopes to help instigate a new way of approaching tradition, arts and humanity.

The year 2012 has been very significant for us. Not only did we, along with the ESS, succeed in offering to host the next World Shakuhachi Festival in 2016, but we also tried out some of the programming ideas that should, if successful, become the backbone of the WSF 2016.

So far, the program of Prague Shakuhachi Festival consisted of five evening concerts, including the opening shakuhachi & electronics night and the final student concert. The evening concerts presented a number of special guests who travel to Prague to present two or three pieces as part of the festival’s public program. This made the concerts very prestigious and high quality, yet due to time restraints the individuals could not present a very diverse range of their artistry. With more and more capable European shakuhachi players appearing on the scene, we have decided to introduce more concerts of various formats into our program.

The greatest change will be in the afternoon concerts. About three years ago we decided to stage a matinee concert for the younger generation of players. These concerts proved successful with both the performers and audiences. However, starting next year, we plan to dedicate the afternoon concerts to individual players in order to showcase their artistry and projects, whether it be  traditional or chamber music, electro-acoustic, avant-garde etc.  The actual number and staging of these concerts will have to be decided upon consultation with the performers and organizers.

The evening concerts will, on the other hand, be more focused on a particular theme. In 2012, the contemporary music concert focused on the imagery of whales in avant-garde music. The theme was reflected in the selected compositions as well as in stage design, making the entire event very effective. We therefore decided to extend this approach to the other evening concerts as well.

Another concert format introduced this year was an evening jam-session with various invited young jazz musicians. Occurring after the formal evening concerts, this jazz collaboration was very successful and we all agreed that such late night performances have their place in the festival program.

To summarize: from 2013, the festival will feature more concerts, will be more project and theme oriented and, above all, it will still retain the fun and warm camaraderie everyone has come to expect of the Prague Shakuhachi Festival!

Regarding the master-classes and introductory courses: In 2012, we experimented with a four-day series of master-classes focused entirely on electro-acoustic music, led by Jim Franklin. The participants demonstration of their results in the student concert amazed everyone. We plan to continue this class and look forward to more developments on the European electro-acoustic shakuhachi scene in the coming years. The beginner’s class was also sustained throughout the four days, and even those who arrived at the festival without any ability on the shakuhachi were able to perform basic pieces on the student concert. It is vital to retain and develop this beginner’s program

Another new idea in programming in 2012 was the listening session presented by Eric Rosenzweig, avid music fan, artist and lecturer at FAMU. His presentation of unusual and beautiful recordings from around the world received extremely positive feedback, especially from the attending ethnomusicologists such as Kiku Day, Christopher Yohmei Blasdel, Vlastislav Matoušek and others. We plan to continue to introduce the festival participants to such unusual musical and auditory experiences.

In order to show our appreciation of those who attend and support the festival, we are setting up a PSF Friends Program that will offer significant discounts and other benefits to our regular participants. Stay tuned to the ESS Newsletter and our Facebook page to learn about the PSF Friends Program.

We continue to be thankful for the support and understanding of the European shakuhachi community.  With all of us working together, we will make the Prague WSF 16 a truly stellar event.


If you would like to help us with the organisation of Prague Shakuhachi Festival and the WSF 2016, please contact us as soon as possible. We want the WSF to run smooth and the way to do it is that we get to know each other before it actually happens.