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Feb 12th
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Walk This Way

culturebeat-keikoRenowned jazz pianist Keiko Matsui is on a journey to find and share hope

For Japanese jazz pianist Keiko Matsui, life's a journey. Her 23rd album is characterized by the ellipsis after the title: The Road ... Matsui says the three dots represent the idea that the road is like a journey that never ends. “We are the owner and creator of the road, each one of us.”


Her album takes the listener on a worldwide quest for peace, and offers insight into her personal odyssey. “I started feeling that it was a long way to come here, and there were hardships,” says Matsui. “But still, life is beautiful. When I received the first melody, I thought about that, and all these inspirations reflected toward my whole album.”

Asked what it means to “receive” a melody, Matsui describes her songwriting process. “I set special time without playing, just sitting in front of the piano, waiting to hear something,” she says. “So it's more like trying not to write. The beginning point is waiting to hear.”

The pianist claims she has no clue from who or where she receives her melodies. “Somehow the melodies carry elements from somewhere,” she says. “I have never been to Argentina or any place like that, but still my writing is sometimes jazzy, sometimes tango, sometimes rock, sometimes classic. But all the elements came through me.”

Perhaps her worldwide fans and collaborators in the studio, have something to do with her eclectic musical blend. Cameroonian bassist Richard Bona—one of hundreds of jazz musicians to work with Matsui—helped her craft the song “Nguea Wonja” off her new album. She remembers asking Bona what Nguea Wonja meant in his native language. “To be proud of your journey,” he replied—a fitting theme for an album about finding your own path.

Matsui admits that her fans have just as much of an impact on her music. “Sometimes people are listening to my music when they are having hard times with disease, or during the war, and they find hope in my music,” says Matsui, referencing fan letters she has received. “I've heard that doctors are using my music for operations, or for the baby birth too. Or sometimes a painter, or masseuse, or figure skater—they are all using my music when they do their own art. I have never met them, but still my music has met them, and we collaborate.”

Appealing to all walks of life, Matsui’s music appears to have some sort of transformative quality that transcends boundaries. “One thing that I know and experience from my live performance is that my music has some mystical magic power,” she says. “Music connects beyond the culture, or the difference of the religion, or the country. And I feel so fortunate, because I can travel with my music in any country, and we can feel oneness, and we can connect to each other with the music.”

She felt that intimate connection with fans 15 years ago at a concert in South Africa. Matsui’s manager had informed her that she had become a big star in the country after a PBS satellite broadcast featured her song “Bridge Over the Stars.” She didn’t believe him until she began playing and the crowd started singing. “What are they singing?” she remembers thinking, since her songs are instrumentals. “Then I noticed they were singing along to the melody … ‘Keiko,’ ‘Keiko,’ ‘Keiko Matsui.’ They were singing my name with the melody,” she says.

“It was so powerful,” she continues. “And at the same time I feel that they have so much passion, because the society is having a hard time. So they are passionate with hope toward music.”

Matsui brings that sense of hope to Kuumbwa Jazz this Thursday, where she will debut her latest work. “This is a beautiful album for my life,” she says of The Road ... “And I'd like to send energy to each one of you for your courage and send energy for your life.”



INFO: 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 11. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar Street, Santa Cruz. $28/Adv, $31/Door. 427-2227.

 

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Heart Me Up

In defense of Valentine’s Day

 

“be(ing) of love (a little) more careful”—e.e. cummings

Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

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