Finding inspiration in nature, Japan’s Kitaro captures the spirit of the times

He made his first appearance in the late 1970s and, in the space of a few years, proved to be a particularly productive as well as popular artist – he has sold more than 100 million copies of his 50 albums worldwide. Japanese composer Kitaro managed to capture the spirit of an era – what later became known as New Age, with his music, an emotive mixture of Asian Zen with electronica and a little bit of Western ambience. His hypnotic music, which some even liken to a lullaby, seems ideal for yoga and meditation, as well as relaxing massages. «I was born in the Japanese countryside,» Kitaro told Kathimerini. «I started playing music while in high school. During the 1960s and 70s, I listened a lot to whatever came from the United States and Europe. After graduation, I thought of getting professionally involved with music, although I never studied anything music-related. I am self-taught. At first it was a little strange, but I kept going without looking back.» When told how serene his music is, compared to the noise and intensity of some contemporary production, he points out that he likes music with different dynamics. «I like quiet places, powerful places and dramatic places. The majority of contemporary music doesn’t have that. Music needs to breathe. When everything is loud, then I feel that all meaning is lost.» Kitaro draws his inspiration from nature. «I have spent most of my time living in the mountains. For years, I have been trying to get in touch with and feel nature’s spirit, which is what has given me feedback for the music I write. We are all part of nature and we need its sound. We have to listen to the spirit that we hide inside.» Kitaro combines traditional musical instruments with electronic ones. Technology has never fazed him. «I spend a lot of time thinking about how to write music that can touch our inner world. Technology helps me to express what I want to say musically. But I don’t base myself on technology. It is our obligation to respect the best that our traditions and cultures have given us, so that we can build on the most important things that we keep hidden deep inside.» «Each artist has his or her own personality,» said Kitaro. «Many of the early New Age artists, such as Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre, had their own sound and wrote some great songs. I think that today something is missing. Most of today’s artists look back, not ahead. My music doesn’t have much to do with New Age, really. I spend my time thinking about life and people through music.» There is something atmospheric about Kitaro’s concerts, where besides Buddhist bells and Vietnamese acoustic strings, he plays a lot with laser systems. Kitaro performs at the Badminton Theater tonight, with the event’s proceeds going to the Greek Foundation against Breast Cancer. On Saturday, he will appear at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall, as part of the Demetria Festival. Badminton Theater, Goudi Military Park, tel 211.108.6024. Thessaloniki Concert Hall, 25th Martiou & Paralia, tel 2310.895.8000.

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