Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Entertainer - HAMADA Takasi, Contemporary Ragtime Guitarist

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Ragtime dawned in the USA in the late 19th Century as a style of popular music influenced by European classical tradition as well as African rhythm. One of the trademarks of ragtime is syncopation, a characteristic 'delay' in the rhythm pattern generating a certain pulse to the melody line, which is a normal feature in African music - and in jazz. Ragtime was primarily composed by piano players, and today ragtime music is best remembered through the works of ragtime composer-pianists like Scott Joplin, James Scott, Arthur Marshall, Joseph Lamb a.o. - pioneers of the classic ragtime repertoire.

At a time before gramophones, records, radio and modern mass media ragtime became popular in the public through published sheet music scores designated for piano players and home entertainment, however, ragtime was also often performed by brass bands performing in street parades, at sport games and other public events. A branch of ragtime performance was offered by virtuosic banjo players, who played classic ragtime pieces on 5-string banjo in concert, and stringbands composed of various string instruments also performed ragtime music in tent shows and at private parties helping to spread the music to a broad audience and making ragtime a hype that put the swing to things in the era before The Jazz Age of the 1920s.

The public taste gradually changed after WW 1 with the emergence of jazz and other popular genres, however, ragtime never disappeared, but was rediscovered from time to time during the 20th Century. In the 1970s, a very popular movie, 'The Sting', used music by Scott Joplin in the soundtrack and generated a renewed interest for Joplin and ragtime. This time guitar players were also attracted to the music and a selection of the classic rags by Joplin and other ragtime composers were transcribed for solo guitar and mostly performed in the folk club circuit and released on LP records. Ragtime played on solo guitar is a challenging experience and demands great technical skills  - a contemporary master of ragtime guitar shows off the needed dexterity in a performance of Scott Joplin's popular rag, 'The Entertainer'

The featured guitarist in the video is HAMADA Takasi, a Japanese guitar player (b.1964) from Otaru City, Hokkaido Island, Japan. He has specialized in ragtime and ragtime influenced music, and he has transcribed both classic ragtime compositions by Scott Joplin and others for solo guitar and furthermore contributed with several of his own compositions in the ragtime genre. His guitar style is quite unique. He can play in standard tuning, but more often he plays in a special "Otarunay-Tuning" (EbAbCFCEb : 6 to 1) that fits well for arranging piano rags for solo guitar. More info on HAMADA Takasi at his website in English, here

HAMADA Takasi (source: YouTube)
HAMADA Takasi has released several CDs since 1992 featuring both own compositions and compositions by well known American ragtime artists, a selection of his CDs are available for purchase here . - Below I'll insert more examples of his magnificent playing from the videos he has uploaded at YouTube. 

Here is first HAMADA Takasi playing a popular, modern ragtime piece composed by David Thomas Roberts - 'Roberto Clemente'

Last year HAMADA Takasi released his latest CD, Tanne Nay, containing sixteen compositions of solo guitar pieces, from original ragtime to tango, blues, ballad, caprice, including 2 rag-medleys by Blind Boone.

CD front: Tanne Nay (Otarunay Records, OTR-033)
One of the featured original ragtime compositions on the Tanne Nay CD is 'Merry's Fish Market', here performed live in a video recording


If you like contemporary solo guitar playing of high standard, I recommend HAMADA Takasi's recordings, his skills both as a composer and as a musician are unique. To end this small presentation, I'll insert the uploaded audio track of the title composition from 'Tanne Nay' - a modern classic rag by HAMADA Takasi   

The Tanne Nay CD is available for purchase here


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