Shoki Family

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We didn’t know it at the time, but many years ago when we begged a friend to show us how to make our first shakuhachi (a type of traditional Japanese flute), we were fortunate he was at that point experimenting with non-standard models.  Compared to shakuhachis made from the root pieces of Japanese bamboo, his were crafted from thinner walled, less dense Indian scaffolding bamboo, which gave them a softer warmer tone which we instantly came to prefer.  As importantly, it was easy to partially close his huge finger holes, and so to produce the microtones which fascinate us.
We added to these differences by being less than painstaking about smoothing out the inside of our flutes , and by developing our own style of mouthpiece.  As a result, the instruments we were making soon became sufficiently different from the traditional shakuhachi, that it seemed best to call them “shoki’s” instead.
This probably protected us from getting stuck in the limitations of conventional shakuhachi style.  Instead of using our flutes to diligently practice tunes from the shrunken traditional repertoire, they quickly became tools for opening up our breathing, and before we’d even noticed, our shoki playing had morphed into sadhana (spiritual exercise) rather than being merely a prelude to performance.
The kit you need to make a shoki is peculiarly simple and elegant.  A small saw for cutting the required length from a cane of bamboo,  some pieces of metal and a way to make them red hot for burning out the joints and for rough shaping the holes, a small sharp knife for carving the mouthpiece, a few round files, and some sand paper.

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( To hear the sound of our shokis, click on this link to the Our Instruments page )

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shokiWe didn’t know it at the time, but back in 1991 when we were living in India and begged a Japanese friend to show us how to make our first shakuhachi ( a type of traditional Japanese flute ), we were fortunate he was at that point experimenting with non-standard models. Compared to “proper” shakuhachis made from root sections of Japanese bamboo, his were crafted from thinner walled, less dense, Indian scaffolding bamboo, giving them a softer warmer tone we instantly came to prefer.  As important, it was easy to partially close his huge finger holes, to play with the microtones that still fascinate us.

We added to these differences by being less than painstaking when we smoothed out the insides of our flutes, and by developing our own style mouthpiece.  As a result, our instruments soon became sufficiently different from traditional shakuhachis it seemed best to give them a new name, to instead call them “shokis”.

This saved us from getting stuck in the limitations of conventional shakuhachi style.  Instead of using our flutes to diligently practice tunes from the sadly shrunken traditional repertoire, they became tools for opening up our breathing, and before we’d even noticed, our shoki playing had morphed into sadhana ( spiritual exercise ), had grown beyond being merely a prelude to performance.

The kit you need to make a shoki is singularly simple and elegant.  A small saw for cutting the required length from a cane of bamboo, some pieces of metal and a way to make them red hot both for burning through the joints and for burning out and rough shaping the holes, a small sharp knife for carving the mouthpiece, a few round files, and some sand paper.
*shoki closeup
But to properly record a shoki turns out to be far from simple.

For one thing its sound is not speaker friendly.  Its dynamic range is enormous and its high notes will rattle and distort on all but the most serious equipment.

Also, when playing a shoki, so much of what you hear comes directly through your meatbag, it’s difficult to monitor your sound while recording it.

Note that shokis are not recorders where the sound is made by blowing through some sort of whistle or fipple, but true flutes where it comes from carefully directing the breath across an edge.

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Doing Music Differently****Work In Progress Frozen mp3 Blog** **The Indian Music Scene
Home****
Kalimba Family****Bowus Family****Unspecialized****Buy Our Music

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