Light and Memory Interview with Yoshiharu Kishimoto
''...jazz is at the heart of my music, and it is not a particular style in jazz, but the spirit that underlies it that shapes who I am today.''
I think it wouldn't be wrong to say that you have a jazz-based center in your music, which is rooted in improvisation, with multi-faceted ambietic aspects and stretching from Asia to Anatolia through Mesopotamia... How was your journey up to there?
As you say, jazz is at the heart of my music, and it is not a particular style in jazz, but the spirit that underlies it that shapes who I am today.
To tell you about my musical journey, my first impression of music was the blues of Muddy Waters, which I heard as a child. I became interested in guitar and asked my parents for guitar lessons, but they only allowed me to attend a classical guitar class. However, thanks to the conscientiousness of the teacher, I was able to develop an interest in a variety of music other than classical.
As a student, I spent more time listening to music from around the world than practicing guitar. At the same time, I formed a rock band with friends and played and sang my own compositions, but at that time I had no intention of making a living at music, just pure enjoyment of music. After graduating from high school, I had nothing in particular that I wanted to do and worked in a coffee shop. I was moved by a live jazz concert I heard at the coffee shop, and from there I became devoted to jazz. However, after about six years, I was no longer satisfied with just playing regular jazz, and I decided that I wanted to face music more genuinely, absorb things around me voraciously, and express my music and my life, an activity that is rooted in the essence of jazz.
At that time, I had started using fretless guitar as a new form of expression, and while researching for a reference player, I came across Erkan Oğur.
His music moved me in a way that I had never felt before in my life. From there, I listened to Turkish music and learned Arabic music under the tutelage of an oud player named Yuji Tsunemi (who studied under Ari Sriti and Hamza Eldin).
Now I am digesting the elements I have cultivated and genuinely enjoying what has come out.
I do not have the music of the place where I was born and raised, and for a time I was troubled by this. However, my hometown in Shizuoka Prefecture is home to the most magnificent mountain in Japan, Mt. Fuji, and I have been moved by this spectacle many times since childhood, and I feel that this is what motivates me to create.
Turkish music is still my longing. I hope to visit Anatolia as soon as possible so that one day these music will become my flesh and blood.
''...we believe that this removes the barrier between the instrument and the song, and makes it possible to express sounds that resonate more directly in that space.''
You seem to really enjoy working over improvisation
in your pieces. How would you describe the place of improvisation in your
At this point, how does your use of fretless guitar guide you in creating your storytelling in your music?
As mentioned above, my musical career started with the blues and improvisation. I have enjoyed improvising ever since I started playing the guitar. For me, expression is improvisation, and this is no different when I play classical music.
Even if I already know which notes to play depending on the piece I am playing, the atmosphere of the place where I am playing, the reaction of the audience, my physical condition, etc., no two moments are exactly the same, and I believe that improvisation is about finding the sound that best resonates at that moment.
The Fretless Guitar is the voice that I want to pursue for the rest of my life, and it is indispensable in shaping my music today. In terms of the history of the guitar, this instrument is in some ways a degenerate version of the guitar.
''It was a society where everyone took it for granted to adapt to the situation, and the only way to build a career was to brainwash yourself...''
What do you think are the similarities between your music and your lifestyle/philosophy? How would you define, position/place yourself and your music universally?
It is not so much a philosophy as it is a commitment to not lying to oneself, both in music and in life. For 10 years I lived in Tokyo, the largest city in Japan, and made my living playing guitar, but sometimes I was faced with situations that were disgusting.
That is not the only reason, but I moved to Okinawa two years ago for my life, my music, and my family's life. Okinawa has a wonderful nature and culture that has given me the same inspiration that I had in my childhood. I am financially poorer, but I feel that my life is richer. In terms of my musical position, I honestly don't know. I myself am currently at the stage of preparation in terms of cooking, and I am just about to put the ingredients in the pot or not. I am very excited about my future, but I don't particularly want to establish a global position.
However, if there is someone who enjoys my music, I think it would give me the greatest pleasure to go out and perform for them and create a work of art. As I myself was saved by music, I always hope that I can express music that can make someone's life better.