TSUKUDANAKA SANPACHI – Dynamic Duo on Shamisen and Shakuhachi

Tsukudanaka Sanpachi is the duo of shamisen/multi instrumentalist Tsutomu Tanaka and shakuhachi player Koushi Tsukuda. Both masters of their tradition, together they play minyo (folk songs) from throughout Japan, but with their own twist. Their take on minyo is a sometimes wild, sometimes beautiful, mix of traditional Japanese sounds and rhythms, with rock, jazz, Latin, African, and other elements.

Tsukudanaka Sanpachi

Tsukudanaka Sanpachi

They have visited villages where minyo songs were born, exchanged ideas with local musicians, and conducted field research, always conscious to show respect for the origin of minyo Their blend of minyo is therefore based on the original concept of each song, with standard and classic minyo given a contemporary and pulsating groove yet rooted in tradition.

With fresh ideas and innovative arrangements they are at the forefront of a new movement, sometimes called neo-minyo. They’ve been asked to contribute theme songs to big festivals like Yosakoi Soran Matsuri, getting the audience into a collective dance, enabling minyo to get back to its original inherent energy. They also have taken part in educational programs and given workshops at various school events.

Their ultimate aim is the reinstatement of minyo in the field of music and culture to the mainstream in Japan.

Tsukudanaka = Tsukuda + Tanaka
Sanpachi = 3 (shamisen) + 8 (shakuhachi)

Tsukudanaka Sanpachi performed to great acclaim at TFF Rudolstadt, Germany  in 2013

Tsukudanaka Sanpachi performed to great acclaim at TFF Rudolstadt, Germany in 2013

The larger, six piece group, Chanchiki featuring the two members of Tsukudanaka Sanpachi plus four others is also available. In addition to shamisen and shakuhachi are other percussion (including the metalic chachinki instrument used in chindon, from which the group takes its name) hayashi backing chanting, great female vocals from Makiko Ikeda, augmented by electric bass, guitar, tuba and other brass instruments. Watch a video of Chanchiki.



To book Tsukudanaka Sanpachi or Chanchiki get in touch with us via the Far Side Music web site

Tsutomu Tanaka began playing taiko drums aged three. As a teenager he played guitar and drums in a band that played American blues and R&B. Aged 19 he started to play Tsugaru-shamisen, which he studied under the master Shuichiro Takahashi. He soon began to challenge the status quo of the conservative minyo world, and formed the band Chanchiki in 1998 with other like minded musicians. Chanchiki rapidly gained a following for their radical new take on minyo. Aside to playing taiko, drums and shamisen he also writes and arranges much of the duo’s material, including the pulsating rhythm tracks that the duo sometimes play along to. He is an exceptional performer, combining musical dexterity with a wicked sense of humour.

Koushi Tsukuda learned shakuhachi from his own father, who is a well known player. He performs with the highly regarded Tsugaru Shamisen association Toshukai, supporting Kabuki performances by top actors  such as Kantaro Nakamura and Shichinosuke Nakamura. He has played with many minyo musicians and has performed around the world. Tsukuba was also an original member of Chanchiki. He writes some compositions for Tsukudanaka Sanpachi, which have a beautiful, lyrical quality to them. The sound of his shakuhachi has been likened to the human voice in the emotion that he conveys.

About Minyo

Minyo, is Japanese local folk music, songs which were naturally born from people’s everyday lives that have been handed down through the generations. They convey various emotions and represent regional characteristics.

In the form of working songs for rice planting or fishing, celebrating marriages or festivals, to dance or play, for banquets, the lyrics include each regional folk custom and dialect, and the songs have developed with various aspects of ancient life. Tsugaru-Shamisen and Okinawan music derived from these regional characteristics as well. Minyo is mainly sung to shamisen (3 stringed lute) and fue ( Japanese flute ) while shakuhachi ( Japanese vertical bamboo flute ), kokyu ( Oriental fiddle ), and wadaiko ( Japanese drum ) occasionally join in.

Until the 1960s, minyo was popular among people of all ages and had an influence on Japanese popular music, and many new songs were composed. But with the change of time, because of the concentration of the population in large cities and the penetration of western lifestyle and culture including music, lyrical content and the sound of minyo became estranged from everyday life. Nowadays except in Okinawa and a few places, minyo is performed only at local and traditional festivals, so the master-and-pupil system is the main way to maintain the skill of singing and playing in the old form.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s