Various ‘Geza Music from the Kabuki’ (Nonesuch) 3/5

Japanese art form invariably combines different aspects and one of the main forms of Japanese theatre, ‘kabuki’ incorporates elements of dance, drama, music and pantomine. Within this form, Geza music refers to the off-stage music of kabuki theatre, but can also be adapted from noa theatre. Musicians in kabuki tend to be positioned in two separate locations; on stage with the principal instruments such as the shamisen, flute and drums; a separate small room concealed by a bamboo curtain where percussion instruments are played and actors often provide the sound effects. The music itself is to this listener’s ears folkloric in sound and pared down to the bare minumum. Particularly impressive is the flute and koto solo on ‘Aikata’. Impressionistic in tone, the music is inextricably linked to the play unfolding on stage. The instructive and extensive inner sleeve notes provide much needed historical context for the newcomer to this form of music. It should be pointed out that the music here is best appreciated in conjunction with viewing a film tale of traditional kabuki theatre and the ‘47 Ronin’ is one of the all-time classics.

Tim Stenhouse