ohn Singer, master shakuhachi teacher, performer, recording artist and former shakuhachi instructor at the University of Hawaii, has performed music on the Japanese bamboo flute since 1975. After several years of intensive study in Japan under the tutelage of the late shakuhachi Grand Master and Living National Treasure Yamaguchi Goro and shakuhachi Master Matsumura Homei, John was awarded a Shihan (Master Teacher certificate) in 1982. He later learned the Nezasa Ha Kinpu Ryu pieces from Kinpu Ryu Iemoto, Master Inoue Shouei (Shigeshi). It is important to note that John is one of a small group of shakuhachi masters in the world and currently the only outside of Japan to record and perform using extremely rare ancient Edo period instruments dating back to the 17th century. John has performed throughout East Asia, The United States, and Western Europe to audiences very appreciative of his unusual talent and mastery of this difficult musical instrument. He has appeared many times on radio and television, and has been actively performing and lecturing at colleges, Zen centers, and other venues in recent years. The main motivation for John's concerts is to give his audiences an understanding of the shakuhachi both as an unusually dynamic musical instrument and as a meditative tool having a rich history within the Zen Buddhist tradition.
John specializes in the performance of the Zen music (called Honkyoku in Japanese) which derives from the ancient tradition of the Komuso (wandering priests) who used the shakuhachi as a tool in their religious practices. These mendicant monks were well known for wandering and playing the shakuhachi and their history can be traced back to Japan's Muromachi period (1338-1573 A.D) It is often said that Zen music represents the true essence or "soul" of the shakuhachi. John also specializes in the performance of traditional Japanese ensemble music where the shakuhachi is combined with the stringed instruments called the Koto and Shamisen. This genre of shakuhachi music (called Sankyoku in Japanese) began as early as the 16th century and has been continually developing to this day.
The Shakuhachi is a Japanese end-blown bamboo flute. The name shakuhachi is derived from the term "isshaku hassun" which means one shaku and eight sun (1.8 Japanese feet). Even though the term shakuhachi refers to the standard size instrument (54.5 cm in length), it can refer to many different sizes ranging from 1.3 shaku (39.4 cm) to 2.5 shaku (75.7 cm) and longer. The shakuhachi is made from the root portion of a thick-walled bamboo called madake in Japanese. Though simple in appearance, the shakuhachi is very difficult to play; its magical quality is revealed to the listener by the purity of its tone.