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Striking similarities in Indian, Japanese music, says expert

Timothi Michael Hoffman, a US-born expert on Asian music, on Wednesday started his Haryana tour, aimed at spreading a message of peace through classical music.

punjab Updated: Aug 19, 2015 20:26 IST
Vishal Joshi
Vishal Joshi
International music expert Tim Hoffman playing Shakuhachi at a press meet in Karnal. CL Kashyap/HT

Timothi Michael Hoffman, a US-born expert on Asian music, on Wednesday started his Haryana tour, aimed at spreading a message of peace through classical music.

The ethnomusicologist (the one who approaches music as a social process in order to understand not only what music is but why it is), who has made Japan his home for the past 29 years, told Hindustan Times that he prefers to call himself an activist involved in research and development (R&D) in intra-Asian music.

Hoffman said that he experiments with music of various countries, which is based on melody. "For me Indo-western fusion is more of khhichri that is re-cooked without any freshness in it. I am trying to encourage musicians to explore new dimensions from the rich traditions of India, Japan, and Sinhalese music," said Hoffman who is working on music of various Asian countries.

"Western music is abrupt whereas the Indian and Japanese music is based on melody and gradually moves one into ecstasy. Traditional Indo-Japanese music is an amalgamation of lai, sur and taal," said Hoffman who is trained in Hindustani music by Pandit Ganesh Prasad Mishra of Benaras gharana.

Hoffman, who has mastered 'Shakuhachi', the five-holed bamboo flute, and the koto, the zither-like 13-stringed traditional Japanese instrument and tabla, said that he tries to blend the classical music of the two nations.

"Build around harmony, the music traditions and instruments of these nations focussed attention to melody and rhythm," he said. "There are immense similarities in Indian and Japanese classic music and languages and I am trying to explore its depths. I am trying to use the platform of Indo-Japanese Musical Exchange Association to connect the sound of music and language as my bit for message of peace," said Hoffman, founder-director of the association floated in 1989.

Hoffman started his cultural tour from a private school in Kurukshetra from Wednesday. The Kurukshetra University and the Karnal-based National Integrated Forum of Artistes and Activists (NIFA) have planned his cultural evenings later this week. He is also expected to perform at the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla.

A scholar and a performing artist, Hoffman is credited with performing and promoting 'Shakuhachi'. "Shakuhachi has four holes in the front and one on the backside of the wood instrument. While studying Hindustani classical music at Lucknow-based Bhatkhande College of Music, I had to take special permission from the Uttar Pradesh government for replacing bansuri with Shakuhachi. However, the same traditional Japanese instrument is acknowledged official in the Indian music institutes and the initiative reflects firm social bonding through music," he said.

Hoffman is a visiting professor in four Japanese universities where he teaches Indian musical music. Hoffman has authored Raga for Shakuhachi and Koto and other works in Japanese, numerous articles in various journals in Japan and India, translated fiction and poetry and scholarly works published by Unesco and other prestigious publications.

First Published: Aug 19, 2015 20:23 IST