WSF2018 London

The first ever WSF in Europe offers an amazing variety of shakuhachi activities and concerts by top performers from all over the globe!

WSF2018 London

The World Shakuhachi Festival 2018 in London will consists out of a diverse range of concerts, workshops, lectures, exhibitions, study sessions and informal gatherings which are open to the general public. It is the seventh large-scale international shakuhachi festival to be held and will be the first to be held in Europe, acknowledging and celebrating the fact that Europe has become a firmly established territory for the shakuhachi with substantial representation of various schools, styles and approaches to the performance of the instrument and its music.

We invited 40 top players from Japan and a further 40 from other parts of the world, including top koto and shamisen players, to make 2018 in London an unique experience. The festival will feature an opening concert (31.July), 4 main evening concerts as well as a further 12 concerts during the day-time. Additionally there will be performance opportunities at open mic slots and informal sessions.

All the main styles of performance will be represented to give a broad view of the various lineages and schools, including Kinko, Tozan, KSK (Yokoyama-lineage) and Myōan styles for the shakuhachi and Ikuta, Yamada and Miyagi-kai for the koto and shamisen. Musical genres such as koten honkyoku (classical solo repertoire for shakuhachi), sankyoku (classical ensemble music with shakuhachi, koto and shamisen), shinkyoku (modern ensemble music), gendaikyoku (contemporary music) will be performed and several new compositions will also be premiered. Genres often not heard at international gatherings, such as the shakuhachi in min’yō or folk music and some of the rare and almost unknown Myōan guilds will also be represented for the first time at this festival.

The WSF2018 in London will be hosted by the world-renowned Goldsmiths University of London in partnership with the Asian Music Unit (AsMU) in the Music Department at Goldsmiths.

Preceding WSF events
at Goldsmiths, there will also be a shakuhachi symposium on 30th July 2018 at SOAS, University of London.

SOAS is a leading higher education institution in Europe specialising in the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East and a perfect venue for a symposium on the shakuhachi. The programme committee invites scholars of all fields engaging in any aspect of the shakuhachi to present their research. Fields may include ethnomusicology, anthropology, religious studies, art history, history, Japanese studies, the study of acoustics and many more.

Further information about the Symposium, which is a separate event to WSF18, can be found on the Symposium page and the details on how to register you will find at the Tickets page.

The various activities of the WSF2018 at Goldsmiths can be broadly separated in five thematic areas:

1. Great Solos from the Past

Shakuhachi honkyoku from various ryūha

The honkyoku played today are pieces that were played in the Edo period by the komusō as part of their religious practice. Scholars estimate that the repertoire known today consists of ca. 450 pieces although fewer are played frequently as standard repertoire. In this theme, we will explore a variety of honkyoku from the schools represented at the festival such as Tozan, Kinko and KSK but also less well known ones including Kinpū Ryū, Kyushu Kei and Jin Nyodo Kei. Included here is also Tozan honkyoku that consists of pieces composed by the founder of the style NAKAO Tozan. The Great Solos theme will explore the amazing creativity behind the variations of honkyoku pieces through lectures, discussions, master classes, workshops and concerts.

2. Golden Oldies

Shakuhachi and other instruments in traditional ensemble forms

When the Fuke sect was abolished and the shakuhachi became a secular instrument some players began to make a living by playing entertainment music such as sankyoku. This changed not only the construction of the shakuhachi, an instrument that before was mostly played as a solo instrument, but also the sankyoku ensemble itself which previously consisted of the koto, shamisen and kokyū. The shakuhachi also entered min’yō (folk music) as an accompaniment to songs. This will be the first time ever that min’yō, which comprises of the biggest shakuhachi group in Japan, is represented at a World Shakuhachi Festival. We will have the opportunity to listen to some of the finest players of these different ensemble forms which have been very important in the survival of the shakuhachi since the abolition of the Fuke sect.


Musical developments from the late Meiji to the 1960s

Soon after the beginning of the Meiji Era, shakuhachi players began to explore the possibilities of the new post-Fuke Sect freedom. New shakuhachi guilds such as the Tozan Ryū and Ueda Ryū were established, many amateur shakuhachi players began to play shakuhachi as a hobby and new compositions were made. The 1920’s saw the rise of the shin nihon ongaku or New Japanese Music movement. MIYAGI Michio (1894–1956) and MOTOORI Nagayo (1885–1945), two major figures in this movement, initiated the genre by composing music that drew from both Japanese and Western music. MIYAGI composed among others ‘Haru no umi’ for shakuhachi and koto, in which the shakuhachi has the main melodic line, as in a flute and piano sonata. This new style opened up possibilities for the use of the shakuhachi, and skilled performers such as YOSHIDA Seifu, NAKAO Tozan, UEDA Hodo and SAKAI Chikuho collaborated with composers in developing a new and exciting trend. We will explore the music of this era through exhibitions, master classes, workshops, lectures and concerts.


Shakuhachi in multifaceted contexts from the 1960s to the present and beyond

During the 1960’s, the shakuhachi began to play a leading role in new compositions for traditional Japanese instruments and pieces, such as MIKI Minoru’s ‘Sonnet’ for three shakuhachi which was composed in 1962. MOROI Makoto opened new horizons for the use of the shakuhachi in contemporary music for avant-garde composers and shakuhachi players with his composition ‘Chikurai Goshō’ in 1964. This potential was further explored by TAKEMITSU Toru with his 1966 piece ‘Eclipse’ for shakuhachi and biwa and his 1967 ‘November Steps’ for shakuhachi, biwa and orchestra. Moroi’s and Takemitsu’s pieces became icons of the new shakuhachi music, transcending school affiliation. The formation of Shakuhachi Sanbonkai in 1964 by top players AOKI Reibo II, YAMAMOTO Hozan and YOKOYAMA Katsuya, who all hailed from different ryūha, meant that the shakuhachi was introduced to audiences as the instrument of a new and energetic performance genre. Since then, the shakuhachi has been a popular Japanese instrument to compose for by both Japanese and non-Japanese composers. This contemporary music theme will be explored through master classes, workshops, lectures and concerts performed by some of shakuhachi’s finest players.

5. Shakuhachi - The Thing

Making, care and styles of the instrument

The shakuhachi is an instrument that has gone through many changes and a variety of instrument types exist such as the gagaku shakuhachi, hitoyogiri, miyogiri and Fuke shakuhachi. There are also regional variations from north to south in Japan due to the bamboo that grew in different areas being affected by the local climate and soil which led to regional differences in the sound produced and the musical style. We will explore the history, sounds/music, regional variety and the construction of the shakuhachi through exhibitions, films, hands-on repair workshops and concerts. This is meant as an enjoyable but also an educational and informative thread in the Festival making it is possible to explore the instrument we all love so much – its various forms and shapes through history.


Please see the Concerts page for a detailed list of the exciting performances lined up for the WSF2018.

On the Schedule pages you will find detailed information about the all the various concerts, workshops and lectures and other activities happening at the WSF2018 in London. Have a look now and bridge the wait for the WSF to begin by picking your favourite events and create your personal programme for the WSF2018 now.

Beginners and shakuhachi novices please note that there will be daily beginners classes at WSF2018. A WSF is a great time to start the instrument.

A WSF is also a great opportunity to stock up on, for example, difficult to obtain shakuhachi CDs, purchase a new instrument or other merchandise, and the WSF in London will be no different and will provide a shop area providing materials from a variety of sellers.  There, you will also be able to get that official WSF2018 T-Shirt!

So just head over to the Tickets page to get on board and join us at the WSF2018 in London.

See you in London!


Download our e-Leaflet for overviews of concerts and passes at WSF2018 (PDF) here.