[MUSIC/World Music ~ JPN]
The Garage International @ Adelaide Town Hall, Thu 27 Feb.
Something of a veteran of the Adelaide Fringe, Etsuko Kawaguchi emerges from behind a curtain and gently greets the crowd. Sadly, it’s a small audience that responds with warm applause. Kawaguchi must be into double figures in terms of visits to the Fringe; obviously she likes it here in Adelaide. Garbed in evocative Japanese traditional dress, Kawaguchi removes her shoes and climbs the stage where her instrument, the koto, awaits.
The 13-string koto, the national instrument of her country, dwarfs Kawaguchi. There’s no set design to speak of, apart from a small fan positioned towards the front of the stage.
SOU MA TOU translates as ‘Flickering Flames Of The Running Horse’. The 40-minute concert comprises a series of five pieces from five different Japanese composers. The first, Chochin Gyoretsu – Ainu no Ko no Odori, is quite an accessible tune; almost hummable. It is a relatively easy going entry point to those unfamiliar with the finer details of traditional Japanese music, and this leads the audience into a slightly more complex second piece, entitled Sakura.
The koto is a beautiful looking and sounding instrument. Especially when in the hands of a virtuoso such as Kawaguchi. The musical structure is a world away from the western music heard throughout this country. Although the sound is quite percussive, the overall impact is one of intoxicating peacefulness; it is almost mesmerising. The tuning method is most interesting; rather than tightening or loosening strings, Kawaguchi moves the bridges up and down, changing string tension that way.
Kawaguchi sings in the third selection, Natsu no Kyoku; her voice is strong and expressive without being overly loud or needing to stretch for notes. The next piece begins simply and slowly, building into something of an epic. Kawaguchi finishes with London no Your no Ame, which starts with a flurry before settling down. And, with that, she is done.
Kawaguchi betrays virtually no emotion throughout the performance, but just before she disappears back behind the curtain she bows, smiles and says, “Thank you very much”.
Thank you, Etsuko Kawaguchi.
Koto Music Concert “SOU MA TOU” continues at The Garage International @ Adelaide Town Hall at various times until Sat 29 Feb.
Book at FringeTIX on 1300 621 255 or adelaidefringe.com.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.