Monday, September 03, 2012


We all remember that summer morning sunrise at Woodstock when Jimi wailed away at his guitar and polished a fresh facet on the new age with the first explosive chords of The Star-Spangled Banner, in a musical performance that has become an icon of national change; well move over, Jimi. Make room for Miasa, who took it to an international level.

Miasa, who with her sisters has for some time now been studying the traditional 3-stringed Japanese instrument known as the shamisen, for some reason selected as her solo recital song a piece titled: Amerika Gasshukoku no Kokka, which translates as "The National Anthem of the United States of America," an anthem that, needless to say, is familiar to all the world but new to 9-year-old Japan resident Miasa. In fact, I'd say that, when she took to the stage at the recital and began to play Amerika Gasshukoku no Kokka on her shamisen, she hadn't heard that uplifting melody in well over 9 years.

As she plucked out each of the song's single individual and separately notated notes in her spritely manner, it came to me that never before in their long history had the international relations of Japan and the United States been deconstructed in such a youthful way in a public arena, particularly in the plangent musical vernacular unique to the shamisen.

The liberty of tempo, the individualistic bending of traditional notes and chords into modern cultural commentary, with implicit political overtones, had every member of the Japanese audience - all thoroughly familiar with the noble song - on the edges of their seats, somewhat as the folks at Woodstock were, even without seats, when Jimi cranked it to the limits in his inimitable way, transforming that staid anthem we all know into an icon of neorevolutionary aspiration that lives on today in cultures around the world, and that found even newer resonance at the shamisen recital on Sunday.

Miasa's own unique 2nd-generation American-Japanese interpretation of The Star-Spangled Banner on the shamisen before a fully Japanese audience set a new standard for interpretive listening, one that will live on in all those hearts, and thence into the ages.

Well done Miasa. Two nations, now much closer, salute you. 

Jimi, thanks for the precedent, and for moving over.


annie said...

Brava Miasa! Brilliant.

Just watched/listened to a shamisen performance on You Tube - got a feel for what it must have been like and only wish Miasa's performance were there too!

Jenn said...

We all need more like this!

More spirit.

Mary Lou said...

I am assuming it is Miasa of M&M fame? Good Blog Robert!

Robert Brady said...

It is indeed, Mary Lou, already making waves!