Japan-America Society of Indiana Presents
Agatsuma: Not Your Father’s Shamisen!

In Partnership with

Indianapolis Museum of Art
Arts Midwest

AgatsumaWorld-renowned musician Hiromitsu Agatsuma brings his contemporary take on the tsugaru-shamisen, a traditional Japanese three-stringed instrument, to Indianapolis.  Marvel as he infuses the traditional sound of the shamisen with modern musical influences of blues, rock, dance music, folk, flamenco, and funk.  Agatsuma has won numerous awards and accolades in Japan, including Traditional Japanese Folk Album of the year at the 16th Annual Japanese gold-Disc Awards (Japan’s version of the Grammy Awards) and first prize at the All-Japan Tsugaru Shamisen Competition.  He is touring the United States as part of the Arts Midwest World Fest and will be accompanied by traditional Japanese taiko drums and an electric piano in his progressive “Nama-1cho!” concert style, presented by Japan-America Society of Indiana and the Indianapolis Museum of Art

Agatsuma and the shamisen: a magical, world music experience not to be missed. 

A YouTube video of a sample performance can be seen here

Date and Time
Saturday, May 8, 2010, 7:00 pm
Door Opens at 6:30pm

The Toby Theatre
Indianapolis Museum of Art
4000 Michigan Road
Indianapolis, Indiana 46208-3326

Tickets (on sale now!)
$15 / Public
$10 / JASI / IMA members
Free / Children under 10*

Public Tickets can be purchased in advance here on the IMA website.  To buy advance tickets at the member price, please call 877-462-8497 and identify yourself as a JASI member. Advance tickets can be ordered in Japanese by calling the JASI office at 317-635-0123.  

*Children under 10 are free but will still need to pick up a ticket at the front desk of the IMA on the night of the performance. 

The concert by the Agatsuma is made possible, in part, by Arts Midwest with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, 3M Foundation, Hearst Foundations, and MetLife Foundation.


Hiromitsu Agatsuma

Hiromitsu Agatsuma is known throughout the world for his masterful playing of the tsugaru-shamisen. Born in 1972 in the Ibaraki Prefecture of Japan, he began studying the traditional Japanese folk music instrument at the age of six. By the time he was fourteen, Agatsuma had skyrocketed to the highest level of tsugaru-shamisen players in Japan—he won first prize at the 1988 All-Japan Tsugaru Shamisen Competition.

He continued to master his craft, winning top honors at competitions throughout Japan. His first album, Agatsuma, was named Traditional Japanese Folk Album of the year at the 16th Annual Japanese gold-Disc Awards (Japan’s version of the Grammy Awards).

Shamisen music evolved from merry bands of musicians that traveled the countryside with their shamisen ready to play it in any environment for any audience. The first tsugaru-shamisen players developed one of Japan’s richest musical traditions by viewing each concert as a once in a lifetime chance to meet new people and learn about new communities, sounds, and music. Now, Hiromitsu Agatsuma brings this sound and spirit to America as part of Arts Midwest World Fest with his special “Nama-1cho!” concert style—an intimate, acoustic world music experience in the spirit of the beginnings of shamisen music.

Hiromitsu Agatsuma Website: http://agatsuma.tv/info_e/index.html  

Yoichi Nozaki: Piano / Keyboard

Mr. Nozaki began playing piano at a very young age. He made his professional debut as a supporting musician for the famous Japanese musician, Ryoji Kurihara. Since that debut, he has done numerous recordings for acclaimed artists and performed as a backup musician for countless live performances.

Mikita Hase and Hiroyuki Okada: Taiko drums

Mikita Hase and Hiroyuki Okada formed the group “Yosoro” in Shizuoka in 2000.  This Wa-daiko (Japanese traditional drum) group takes a very unique approach to wa-daiko performance by seeking a high degree of musicality and solo performance supported by elaborate techniques.  They often collaborate with artists in different genres and mediums as a part of larger artistic projects. Yosoro puts on live performances and school workshops all over the world.  http://yo-soro.net (Japanese only)

About the Tsugaru-Shamisen

The shamisen (pronounced “sh-ah-mee-sen”), which means “three strings” in Japanese, is a three-stringed musical instrument played with a large wooden pick called a bachi. The shamisen is similar in length to a guitar, but its neck is much slimmer and it has no frets. its drum-like rounded rectangular body, known as the dō, is similar to a banjo.

The three strings are traditionally made of silk, or, more recently, nylon. The lowest string passes over a small hump at the end of the instrument so that it buzzes, creating a unique sound known as sawari. The upper part of the dō is almost always protected by a cover known as a dō kake, and players often wear a little band of cloth on their left hand to facilitate sliding up and down the neck. This band is known as a yubikake. There may also be a cover on the head of the instrument, known as a tenjin.

Tsugaru (pronounced “tsoo-gah-roo”) refers to the tsugaru district in the Aomori Prefecture on the northern tip of Japan’s mainland. In the early part of the 20th century, musicians (many of whom were blind) developed a new style of playing the shamisen based on traditional folk songs, but involving flashy finger work and musical creativity. Known for its bluesy, powerful finger-plucking sound sometimes compared to the sound of a bluegrass banjo, tsugaru-shamisen is said to be like “the howling of one’s soul,” which reflects the strength of the people living in Tsugaru who had to learn to survive in its harsh, rugged climate.