Shakuhachi in a Modernized World: Mediation of a Transformed Culture in the United States

Sarah Renata Strothers (Florida State University)

Technological processes have proved to be quite useful in the proliferation and development of traditional Japanese cultures in the United States—especially with regard to the popularization of the shakuhachi. For example, applications like iShakuhachi and iShaku are easily accessible to the growing generation of “app” users. In addition, shakuhachi web forums, digital recordings, and shakuhachi lessons via the webcam application Skype have become standardized tools for shakuhachi education. In this modern world, Internet technologies and other software programs are being used to perpetrate the traditional oral culture of shakuhachi. In other words, the traditional context of the instrument and its music are negotiated through the global world in exchange for the shakuhachi’s preservation and transmission. This recently transformed tradition functions on two levels: 1) the transmission of the shakuhachi being carried on by American dai-shihan shakuhachi professionals and 2) the application of internet technologies to create virtual classrooms specifically for shakuhachi learning. In this paper, I will discuss the current diaspora of the transformed tradition of shakuhachi that exists as a subculture in the United States. Through the analysis of ethnographic data and private lessons with my Sensei, I will also explore the transcultural identities that exist in the shakuhachi community and how these transcultural identities embody, reflect, and manifest Japanese culture and aid in the mediation of global processes.  [Text Originally in the AAA 2013 Program]

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