Flutes of Hope: Featuring Kaoru Watanabe, Akihito Obama, Ralph Samuelson and Sumie Kaneko


Asia Society Presents!

Two years after the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the people of Japan continue to grieve the loss of loved ones, grapple with the enormity of rebuilding, and find comfort in the ties that bind community. Together with the Consulate General of Japan—Houston, Asia Society Texas Center proudly presents Flutes of Hope, a project created by four renowned masters of traditional Japanese flutes and stringed instruments. Fresh from a stop at Carnegie Hall, the quartet brings a timeless message of hope and healing that speaks to the best of the human spirit.

Featuring Kaoru Watanabe, fue and taiko; Akihito Obama and Ralph Samuelson, shakuhachi; and Sumie Kaneko, koto and shamisen.



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Kaoru Watanabe, fue and taiko

Kaoru Watanabe is a New York based practitioner of various Japanese traverse bamboo fue or flutes, the taiko drum, as well as the Western flute. His music can be best described as an ever shifting blend of the folk and classical traditions of Japan with contemporary improvisational and experimental music. He has performed with such artists as jazz pianist Jason Moran and Kabuki actor Bando Tamasaburo, and was a member and artistic director of the famed Japanese ensemble Kodo. Kaoru's fue are provided by master flute maker Ranjo.

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Akihito Obama, shakuhachi

Born in Kagawa Prefecture, Akihito Obama studied various styles of shakuhachi under leading musicians such as Toshimitsu Ishikawa (traditional) and Satoshi Yoneya (minyo or folk). In recent years, Obama draws on his musical experiences and incorporates these influences into his own music, including the minyo-based Takio Band. Obama has developed and refined his technique by performing in venues from small clubs to large concert halls with artists playing hogaku instruments and Western instruments. This has allowed him to penetrate traditional barriers and discover his own distinct sound.

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Ralph Samuelson, shakuhachi

Ralph Samuelson began his studies of Kinko school shakuhachi music in 1969 as a graduate student at Wesleyan University under the guidance of Araki Kodo V and later continued shakuhachi studies with Yamato Shudo. He first traveled to Japan in 1971 to become a student of Yamaguchi Goro, and he has been studying the traditional repertoire and playing style of the Kinko school with Yamaguchi-sensei since that time. He began actively teaching and performing in the United States in 1978. Samuelson has performed traditional and contemporary shakuhachi music at numerous concerts in North America, Asia, and Europe. He is a frequent guest lecturer at universities and music schools and teaches the shakuhachi in New York, where he is former director of the Asian Cultural Council, a foundation supporting U.S.-Asia cultural exchange.

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Sumie Kaneko, koto and shamisen

Born and raised in Chiba, Japan, Sumie Kaneko started playing koto at 5 years of age. The following year, she made her broadcast debut on NHK. Later, while Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, she first picked up the shamisen and immediately discovered a new possibilities for both the koto and shamisen. Forever seeking, Kaneko made her way to Berklee College of Music to study jazz vocal performance. There she integrated jazz and traditional Japanese music, creating a sound that spoke to her unique artistic vision. In 2011, she founded J-Trad and More, an alternative band that fuses her Japanese roots with the colors of jazz and freedom of rock.

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Supported by The Brown Foundation, Inc., Houston Arts Alliance, City of Houston, The Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts, Bank of America, and United Airlines – Official Airline of Asia Society Texas Center. Presented in commemoration of the 2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and in partnership with the Consulate General of Japan-Houston.

Event Details

Sat 16 Mar 2013
7:30 p.m.-
1370 Southmore Blvd. Houston, TX 77004 713.496.9901
Asia Society members $15; seniors/students with ID $20; nonmembers $25. Links to purchase tickets below event description. All sales final.
Add to Calendar 20130317T003000 20130317T003000 UTC Asia Society: Flutes of Hope: Featuring Kaoru Watanabe, Akihito Obama, Ralph Samuelson and Sumie Kaneko 1370 Southmore Blvd. Houston, TX 77004 713.496.9901
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