Kojiro Umezaki grew up in Tokyo, Japan where he began studying Western flute and the shakuhachi. His career encompasses both traditional and technology-based music and a range of electronic media. “My mother is from Denmark and my father is Japanese. My multinational background may be one of the reasons why I don’t limit myself to the traditional repertoire. In all my work, I try to put the shakuhachi in a more contemporary, musically diverse context. Hopefully this work can become part of the evolutionary process of the instrument.”
Ko is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of California, Irvine and holds a degree in Electro-acoustic Music from Dartmouth College. He performs regularly with the Silk Road Ensemble and has recorded on the Sony BMG, World Village, and Smithsonian Folkways labels.
The shakuhachi – Japanese end-blown bamboo flute – is played by blowing air across the beveled edge at the top of the instrument, while covering and uncovering the holes with fingertips. Introduced to Japan in the 7th century, it has been used to create music for Zen Buddhist meditation. The sounds produced by the shakuhachi range from soft whispers to strong piercing tones, often intended to reflect natural phenomena such as falling leaves, wind, and the cries and gestures of animals.