Feb 212011
 
Authors: Lianna Salva

As a young boy growing up in Northern Japan, Kevin Kmetz was first introduced to a three-stringed, fretless instrument similar to a guitar.

This instrument was called the shamisen and now, years later, Kmetz and his partner Mike Penny are bringing this Eastern sound to an American audience, by blending world musical genres.

Tonight, Tsugaru Shamisen musicians Kmetz and Penny of “Monsters of Shamisen” will perform at the Organ Recital Hall of the University Center for the Arts at 7:30 p.m.  

This performance will be followed by a meet-the-artist reception.

Although the original Japanese shamisen players performed folk music, “Monsters of Shamisen” provides music that combines cultures from the East and West.  

“The show is going to contain a lot of well known classical jazz pieces while also adapting Japanese folk,” band member Penny said.

“In addition to that, we have a lot of eastern folk music, like Bulkan gypsy, and a Led Zeppelin cover,” he said.

Penny began playing guitar when he was young and attended music camp at age 18, where he was introduced to the shamisen instrument.  

Introducing this type of music to Americans is a key goal of the group, especially since both Kmetz and Penny are Americans.

“It’ll be new to a lot of people,” Kmetz said. “The texture and the flavor will be familiar, but it doesn’t go beyond Northern Japan at this time.”   

These folk songs were sung by a solo vocalist, and usually were performed by blind beggers, according to Kmetz and Penny.
CSU professor Masako Beecken, of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, approves combining Japanese and American cultures for the Fort Collins Community.

“I’m so glad that they are going to use traditional Japanese music, but it is also very interesting to see what they can come up with,” Beecken said. “I think they’re expanding horizons of traditional Japanese music.”  

The Consulate-General of Japan, the Japan Foundation and CSU will sponsor the event. 

Tickets cost $7 for CSU students, $1 for youth ages 2 to 17 and $12 for adults.  

Staff writer Lianna Salva can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

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