First-ever performance of Japan’s ancient imperial court music

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Zubair Qureshi

In order to entertain and to familiarize Pakistani friends and members of diplomatic community with the centuries old Japanese Imperial Court music, the Embassy of Japan on Monday organized a classical Japanese Gagaku music and dance performance at the auditorium of Islamabad Club.
Gagaku is a type of Japanese classical music that has been performed at the Imperial Court for one thousand and several hundred years. Renowned Japanese Gagaku artistes, Tsukumo Togi and Masami Togi hailing from the Togi family, travelled all the way from Japan to Islamabad for this music performance. Togi family is one of the few noble families that for centuries have preserved and performed this more than 1300-year-old musical tradition of Gagaku, Imperial Court music.
Ambassador of Japan to Pakistan Takashi Kurai warmly welcomed the visiting Japanese artistes and expressed his gratitude to them for their first-ever visit to Pakistan for performing over a millenary old Japanese classical music that has been performed by the musicians of the Japanese Imperial Household at the Imperial Court, which makes it the oldest orchestra music in the world. Gagaku also accompanies classical dance performances called Bugaku.
“I am delighted that we are able to share this Japanese imperial delicacy with you, as this year marks the 65th anniversary of Japan and Pakistan’s diplomatic relations. I hope these cultural events will further strengthen the bonds of friendship and affection between our two nations”, said Ambassador Kurai. Ambassador Kurai further said that Gagaku music was developed to be heard in the ancient courts of Asia intended to reflect a sense of elegance, leisure and power.
It may be mentioned here that the present day Gagaku repertory consists of the following four categories Kangen—Instrumental music consisting of an ensemble; Bugaku: Dance —accompanied by part or all of the Gagaku ensemble. These dances are divided into right and left styles. The dances can be solo, duets, or quarters with very colorful (and expensive) costumes and props. The third category is songs: The songs of Gagaku, rouei and saibara, are simple melodies (mostly derived from ancient folk songs) accompanied by a scaled down version of the kangen ensemble and lastly, ritual music for Shinto ceremonies.