Taisho-goto (Nagoya Harp): Let’s enjoy its wide and deep world from enka to classical music!

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     Have you ever heard the sound of Taisho-goto? It is a stringed musical instrument invented in Japan in the Taisho Period (1912-1920) and is also called Nagoya harp in English according to Wikipedia. As the second name shows, the instrument was born in my town Nagoya. Nevertheless, I had never seen or heard of the sound of one until recently. Luckily I had an opportunity to go to a concert of the old and new (for me) instrument at the end of June. 

     The concert was held by Kawai Musical Instruments Manufacturing at Chuden Hall in Sakae, Nagoya, on June 24. It consisted of two recitals: one was performed by students at Kawai Music School and another by their teachers.  CAM00023

     The students’ groups were 12 and they played a broad range of music, for example, “Around the World” composed by Victor Young, “La Playa” by M.A. Deighan, a French pop “Les Champs-Elysees”, and “Miagete Goran Yoru no Hoshi o” or “Look up at the Stars in the Night” composed by Take Izumi and sang by Kyu Sakamoto, who was famous for “Sukiyaki Song” in 1960s.   CAM00025

     Apparently, the average age of the students was 65. There were four to ten players in each group, and in which they were dressing in matching costumes. They were playing the musical instrument proudly before their children and grandchildren coming to see their performance. That was quite heartwarming. 

     Although I was very surprised at the students’ cross-genre music, their teachers’ performance was even more amazing. Firstly, they played a Japanese tune which was composed for shamisen, another stringed Japanese musical instrument. Secondly, they performed a medley of “The Sound of Music” such as “My Favorite Things”, “Do-Re-Mi” and “Edelweiss”. Thirdly, some classical music: Offenbach’s “Heaven and Hell”, Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No.8” and “Symphony No.5”. Fourthly, some Latin American numbers: J. LaCalle’s “Amapola”, C.E. Almaran’s “Historia de un Amor”, C. Velazquez’s “Besame Mucho” and A. Barrosso’s “Brazil”. Fifthly, several movie theme: “The Third Man”, “Rocky”(“Gonna Fly Now”), and “Lupin the Third”. Finally, they played Jazz number “Sing, Sing, Sing” and some Japanese popular music.   

     Taisho-goto was popular in Taisho era (1912-1920) but is still well-liked among women over sixties. I had imagined that most of the music played by the instrument would be old Japanese melancholic enka songs until I went to the concert. However, everyone was enjoying playing various kinds of music with the instrument. The world created by Nagoya harps is wider and deeper than I thought. I hope the Japan’s invention Taisho-goto are introduced more a lot into the world and the populations of its players increase. 

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