Shamisen, the Japanese banjo

Shamisen, the Japanese banjo

We listen to some Shamisen music!

The shamisen is a three-stringed musical instrument that is played with a plectrum (called a bachi) and is part of the lute family; some people call it the Japanese Banjo. Its length is similar to that of a guitar, but its neck is slimmer. It has a drum-like rounded rectangular body, which is known as the dō, which is covered with skin (cat or dog skin) like a banjo, and its function is to amplify the strings. The instrument originated in China and was imported into Japan over 400 years ago. Geisha are known to play the Shamisen to entertain guests.

Artists that plays the Shamisen

Takeharu Kinimoto (Known for playing bluegrass music on the Shamisen), Glenn Horiuchi (Japanese American Jazz pianist), Marty Friedman (Metal Guitarist – Megadeth from 1990 – 2000), The Yoshida Brothers, Gackt (Japanese Rock Musician) and Kevin Kmetz (American guitarist – member of God of Shamisen) are just some of the artist that play the instrument as part of their music acts.

Examples of Shamisen music:

Shamisen and Western Classical Music:

Here is an example of a Japanese Shamisen, playing a version of Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in e minor Op.64 Please follow our link:

The Yoshida Brothers

The Yoshida Brothers

The Yoshida Brothers

One of the most well-known music groups that perform music with the shamisen is the Yoshida Brothers. They have released several albums under the Domo Records label. They debuted in 1999 and their first album sold 100,000. They became celebrities in Japan, which came as a big surprise to them. They became even bigger and started to attract a huge international following. The two brothers perform a traditional Japanese music style called Tsugaru-jamisen, which originated in northern Japan. Their music has been classified as a fusion of the rapid and percussive Tsugaru-jamisen style with Western as well as other musical influences.

Here are a few examples of their music. Please follow our links:

Yoshida Brothers – Kodo
Yoshida Brothers – Storm

Shamisen and Rock and Roll

Here is a video of the well-known shamisen musician Kevin Kmetz and accordion musician Duckmandu covering AC/DC’s hit song Highway to Hell. Please follow our link:

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