My First Shakuhachi

The first instrument I began playing was the drum. I chose this because i was interested in percussion instruments. For a few years I really enjoyed myself in the percussion section and then i left the band after a row with and annoying teacher. Fast forward a few years and my parents brought me my first bamboo flute from one of their trips. I found myself playing it often and enjoying it greatly. I soon moved on to buying my own bamboo flutes. The simplicity of the instrument appealed to me as did its beautiful hollow sound. Fast forward some ten years later and through more bamboo flutes than I can remember to roughly three years ago.
I had just been fired from my job as a marble worker. i was spending my days looking for a new job and also going to thrift stores around town. After an interview I had wandered to my favorite thrift store in Portland called The Bins. If you have never heard of it it is where man of the items that are not sold at Goodwill stores end up. It is a large room filled with blue bins, hence the name, filled with a vast assortment of items. you never know what you will find at the bins from WWII badges including a Nazi Patch to a century old cribbage board. The Bins eventually gets it all. On this particular day I was half looking and half people watching when I saw a bamboo tube with holes in it. At first I thought it was just another cheap bamboo flute like so many others I had found before. I was making my way over to it when another shopper quickly picked it up. I was not heartbroken about not getting it just a little crestfallen.
As I continued to shop, I watched the man who had picked up the flute. he attempted to play it, but could produce no sound. he seemed to know that I was watching him. After a few more attempts he came over and presented the flute to me. I gladly accepted.
I had no idea what I was holding in my hands or how it would change my life when I bought what I thought was just another bamboo flute.
I took the item home cleaned it up and attempted to play it. I am more accustomed to playing a transverse flute so i first attempted to play it that way. Nothing. I put it aside for a few days and told myself I would come back to it once I learned more about it. While at work I did a quick search for various types of bamboo flutes and what I found out greatly excited me.
What I had called a simply bamboo flute was actually a student model Japanese shakuhachi. I had paid 50 cents for an instrument that starts at about $90. I quickly looked up more information and left work early in order to get at my newest flute. I could hardly contain my excitement as I correctly put the instrument to my mouth and blew. I didn't get a sound. I tried again and again for what seemed like hours and yet I could produce no sound. i finally broke down and went to that pantheon of information known as youtube and found an instructional video. Within half an hour i was able to produce the most basic note on the shakuhachi, but it was the start of love affair that continues to this day.
There is no trip I go on, no hike in the mountains, no relaxing day at the beach when my shakuhachi is out of my reach. It has become my constant companion whenever I know i am going to place where I feel its haunting sound will dance through the air. I have played my shakuhachi in the damp depths of rain forests to the arid desert to top of misty mountains to the floor of rocky canyons. Each time I am amazed by the beauty that I am able, through my shakuhachi, to turn my breath into. There have been a few interesting souls who have heard the trills of music and have sought me out in the wilderness, but most of the time I remain an unknown source of beauty transforming my breath through my shakuhachi wafting in the mountain air. If you and I are in the right place perhaps you will hear me.
Wanderartist Wanderartist
31-35, M
2 Responses Aug 6, 2010

Ah, an instrument of the spirit. I would love to hear you. <br />
<br />
I have a duduk, but i need to find the space to learn to let it mourn...

I have a duduk as well. I am still learning to control my breathing properly.

Wanderartist, I have just read this post of yours (a little late but...). Your words and passion for this instrument are really beautiful and make me want to listen. Thank you.