The prodigious performance of eminent Japanese pianist Jun Kanno at the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) on Wednesday was a balm for weary souls. The power and grace with which Kanno played brought drama to the Napa auditorium and a truly deserving standing ovation.
Kanno’s impressive experience and depth is recognised the world over. He has played with several orchestras, including in Munich, Berlin, Prague and even with the Korean National Orchestra.
He collaborated with Napa students on the piano on the classic folksong ‘Sakura’ which means cherry blossom. The song is a depiction of the spring season which brings in its fold the beautiful cherry blossom flower. The students did well with singing the Japanese lyrics to Kanno’s playing.
Effortlessly gliding fingers, playful tunes quickly transforming into a sombre ballad, Kanno had the audience arrested each time he played the piano.
He made the effort to build a story and provide the audience with a glimpse of the world he belongs to.
Speaking to the audience, Kanno expressed his delight at being able to collaborate with Pakistani musicians at Napa. Along with Ustad Nafees Ahmed on the sitar, Kanno was part of a jugalbandi on Mozart’s self-titled rondo ‘Alla turca’ — a thrilling experience.
Kanno played Western composers in the first half of the evening including the likes of Mozart and Beethoven. He then decided to play the tunes of Japanese composer of classical music Akira Ifukube, who passed away in 2006.
It was then that Kanno truly shined. One could feel him narrating a story of starry nights and violent waters, of calm shores and dreams that defy comprehension, overall uplifting the mood of everyone present in the auditorium. The Japanese composition, Ifukube’s ‘Piano Suite’, beautifully painted Japanese folklore through soft melodic composition.
“Ifukube was a self-made musician who did not receive formal training. His composition of ‘Piano Suite’ is inspired by Japanese folklore,” said Kanno.
Ustad Nafees also played raag Bhopali for the audience. As a tribute to the guest of honour, Jun Kanno, Ustad Nafees played the raag first in the style which is popular in the Far East. He later switched back to the traditional style.
Originally published in Dawn, May 26th, 2017