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Binding Two Continents

Portland folk artist Hanz Araki bridges his heritage with a flute



One tradition calls it a buinne, the other calls it a shakuhachi, but both regard the instrument more commonly known as the flute with extremely high esteem. Irish Japanese artist Hanz Araki honors that dual heritage by complimenting Gaelic folk music with the spiritual allure of masterful flute playing. It's a sound that touches on his strong maternal Irish background as well as the Japanese legacy of his father.

Surprisingly, the musical cultures of these places are not as far apart as the two continents in between would suggest they are.

The Japanese shakuhachi—typically made from bamboo—produces a soothing breeze of tone, pitched less sharply than a modern concert flute. It has been regarded as one of the most prestigious crafts in Japan for the last 100 years; originally reserved for only monks to learn.

In historical Irish music, the buinne created much the same sound as the shakuhachi. It too was made out of wood and used simple finger holes for changing the tone, with the main difference being the up tempo use of the flute in Celtic songs.

This close relationship in sound can be heard in the soundtracks from movies like "Braveheart" and "The Karate Kid II," two films whose settings are a world away, but whose music hits many of the same notes.

As the apprentice of a fifth generation shakuhachi grandmaster—namely his father—Araki quickly rose to prominence with the instrument, making his debut in Tokyo just four months after beginning his study. Four years into his education at Keio University, Araki returned to Seattle in 1992 and began his exploration into the other half of his ancestral equation. He began to combine his flute playing with traditional Irish ditties.

For 25 years since, Araki has been splicing the two genres into a cohesive concept that carries the spiritual weight of those early Japanese monks, but also maintains the oral storytelling tradition of Irish folk music pairing fiddle and acoustic guitar with quaint lyrics. The resulting sound brings the two cultures together much more easily than a trek across Europe and Asia.

Hanz Araki and Cary Novotny

7 pm. Wednesday, Dec. 11

Old St. Francis School- Father Luke's Room

700 NW. Bond St.


About The Author

Ethan Maffey

Both a writer and a fan of vinyl records since age 5, it wasn't until nearly three decades later that Oregon Native Ethan Maffey derived a plan to marry the two passions by writing about music. From blogging on MySpace in 2007 and then Blogspot, to launching his own website, 83Music, and eventually freelancing...

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