Takeharu Kunimoto’s entry into the music world was via the mandolin, which he took up in 1974 while he was still in junior high school. But it wasn’t the lure of traditional European tunes that attracted him to the ancient instrument; it was the twangy rhythms of the blues- and jazz-fusion American bluegrass that he had heard on the radio.
In high school, Kunimoto, now 47, extended his repertoire to include the traditional three-stringed instrument, the shamisen, and from there branched into rokyoku, a form of storytelling with shamisen accompaniment, setting the trajectory of his career.
Since then, he’s been the consummate musical diplomat, wedding American folk-music traditions with those of Japan. In 2003, he took his shamisen with him to East Tennessee State University, where he spent a year studying Southern music traditions and formed a band of guitar, mandolin and bass players.
On March 26, Kunimoto will do a solo gig at Theater 1010, in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward. For this show, he will combine traditional rokyoku storytelling with rock, country and flamenco. Tickets cost ¥4,000 and ¥3,500. For details call (03) 5244-1010, or see the venue’s Web site at www.t1010.jp