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Live concert to showcase traditional Japanese instrumental music

Popular taiko drums and tsugaru-shamisen musicians will return to perform for the first time since 2019
KiKi and Keita Kanazashi performing on stage.

A live concert featuring famous traditional Japanese musicians is promising a night of unique and exuberant performances — just in time for spring.

After a three-year hiatus, the Steveston Buddhist Temple will be bringing back its concert series to showcase traditional Japanese music and promote cultural exchange between Japan and Canada.

For its eighth installment, taiko drummer Keita Kanazashi and tsugaru-shamisen duo KiKi will be returning to Richmond to perform for a second time. The two acts were previously featured in the 2019 concert.

“They would like to reconnect with people in Richmond for the first time in three years after the worldwide (COVID-19) pandemic,” said Keiko Go, spokesperson for the Steveston Buddhist Temple, who added that the concert is named Tsumugu Project (Re) to signify a reconnection.

“… it’s good timing because it’s cherry blossom season. And especially (considering) the pandemic, we want to bring the spirit… back after the pandemic to the people of Richmond.”

The two acts were especially drawn to Steveston because of its long Japanese heritage.

Kanazashi took up taiko drumming when he was 11 and he has been travelling the world to perform as a solo act. Kanazashi’s dynamic performances are a must-see as he combines elements of kendo, Japanese traditional dance and kabuki hayashi (kabuki music).

“His style is very unique, and it’s worth listening and watching him perform,” said Go.

KiKi, which is made up of Hikari Shirafuji and Kanami Takeda, is celebrating its 15th anniversary as a globally known duo. The name KiKi means to sparkle or glow continuously.

In contrast with regular shamisen, tsugaru-shamisen is played in a “loud and exuberant” manner as it was first performed by a travelling street musician in the Aomori prefecture in the 19th century, Go explained.

Originally intended to attract audiences, the instrument requires the musician to strike the three strings “really really hard” to play it loudly. The songs are often fast in pace with flashy fingerwork, while producing a mournful sound much like bluegrass music.

“It’s like plucking and shredding on an electric guitar,” said Go.

“… When they play, oh my gosh, they’re like rock stars!”

The Tsumugu Project (Re) concert will be held at the Steveston Buddhist Temple, 4360 Gary St. on Thursday, April 13. The show starts at 7 p.m. and doors will open at 6 p.m.

General admission tickets are $25 and $20 if purchased in advance, and tickets for children under 12 are $15 at the door or $10 in advance.

Kanazashi will also be holding a 45-minute taiko workshop on the same day from 2:30 to 3:15 p.m., where anyone above 12 years old can learn the basics of the instrument and its history. Tickets are $15.

For inquiries and to purchase tickets, please call 604-277-2323 or email [email protected].