Japanese Buddhist Chanting (Shomyo) and Shirabyoshi Performance

A rare performance of shomyo and shirabyoshi by musician, Makiko Sakurai. Sponsored by the USC Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture (CJRC).

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Since 1986 Makiko Sakurai has studied Shomyo, the ancient Heian period (781-1192 AD) form of chant associated with the Tendai sect of Buddhism, with teachers Genshin Nakayama from 1989, and studied ryu-teki (gagaku flute) from Sukeyasu Shiba from 1986 to 1996.

Ms. Sakurai graduated from the Music Department of Osaka University of Arts, majoring in piano. She then received a masters’ degree in 1988 at Tokyo College of Music, majoring in composition.

She has adapted shomyo for contemporary settings, and in collaboration with Japanese composers Mamoru Fujieda and Ayuo. She appears on two CDs of Ayuo and Mmoru Fujieda: "The Night Chant" and "Izutsu," both released on the Tzadik label. She has also performed works for American composers, Peter Garland and Carl Stone.

Ms. Sakurai traveled to Israel to study Jewish religious music in 1988, and studied the Itako music of the Tsugaru area of southern Aomori in 1990. In 1994 she received a scholarship from the ACC (Asian Cultural Council) to study the Navajo language at Navajo Community College in Arizona and the music of the Navajo and Hopi peoples. After that she returned to her practice of Heian Period chanting and dance of “Shirabyoshi" in 1997, which she performs in its pure unaccompanied form. In 2000 she received a grant from The Helene Wuriltzer Foundation to study the music of The Taos Pueblo. In 2008 she went to Israel again especially to study Yemenite ritual music “Deawan” from Gira Beshari.

When she returned to Japan, she composed “Oriental music” the content of which included both Magrib (western Arab) music and Japanese music and this was performed in the “Arab Shirabyoshi Project.” 

Ms. Sakurai has written the scripts for her original collaborative pieces with Noh theatre including “Bamboo Princess” (2006), “Manhattan Okina” (2007-2013), “Pirate Princess” (2009,2013) and “Sword Mound” (2010). She has also written for a collaborative piece with puppet theatre, Kokeshi Joruri “The Bridegroom of Hanako” (2011, 2013).