Masako Hazata

はざた雅子/Masako Hazata

Once was a Japanese koto-master, Masako Hazata, fascinated by kantele's sensitive and ethereal tone, took part in the kantele summer camp in Lahti, Finland in 1985. At the Sibelius-Academy in Helsinki, she studied 39-string concert kantele under Ritva Koistinen in 1988. By joining Annikki Smölander- Hauvonen's leading kantele group, "Käenpiika", she started her career as a kantele player. Hazata performed at a number of concerts in Finland, and she also toured Japan with them in 1992. She was very privileged to perform for the pope in Rome during Easter, 1991. Her interests also extended to Fin nish folk music and she studied 5-string kantele under Minna Raskinen at the Sibelius Academy.

After returning to Japan in 1994, Hazata has worked to promote kantele and Finnish culture through her performances mainly in Tokyo, and also emphasis on the education of kantele players in Japan.

In 1998, her first, and also the first by a Japanese kantele player, album "KANTELE" was released on San Paolo. She appeared on the NHK(Japanese broadcasting company) programs, "Music Beat" in 1999 and "Radio Evening Newspaper" in 2004. Her activities are not limited to performing as a soloist. She collaborated with an Ocarina player, Sojiro, in his CD "The Orion", "Duet". She played in "The Harambee Endowment Concert 2002" in Rome. She had her second CD, all original collections, "KANTELEⅡ" in 2003. She also had the honor to perform for her Majesty the Empress in 2004.

Ms Hazata has kept working constantly in recent years too. She played at the music festival "La Folle Journée au Japan-Days of Enthusiasm 2007". And her 3rd album "KANTELE Christmas" was released in 2007. Also Two collaboration CDs with Masahiko Sugiyama "Meguriai-(Fortune)" , with Minoru Chiba "kantele & ocarina" were released in 2008 and 2010. And at least, she taked part in a compilation album "The Forest of Healing FINLAND", in 2014.

Masako Hazata is a leading kantele player in Japan.

My Space:You can listen to some Masako Hazata's original tunes.

KANTELE - Finnish national instrument

The kantele is the national instrument of Finland and a symbol of national identity often depicted in national romantic art. It’s a string instrument not closely related to the harp although there are similarities. The closest relatives to the kantele can be found e.g. in the Baltic countries and Russia. The instrument has been estimated to have existed for some 2000 years. The earliest forms have probably featured a small amount of strings – perhaps five. The five stringed kantele still remains the basic form of the modern kantele.

The kantele is a diatonic instrument. This means that the instruments have been tuned to a certain key or mode. Notes that don’t belong to the key can thus not be played without re-tuning the instrument. An exception for this is the concert kantele with a mechanism to produce all missing half steps by turning special metal slides that tune a string half note up or down. Normally a kantele is tuned so that each note of the key can be found in correct order. E.g. an 11 stringed instrument’s lowest string would be tuned to a whereas the higher ones would be tuned respectively to a, h/b, c#1, d1, e1, f#1, g1, a1, h1/b1, c#2, d2.

Small kanteles which feature some 5 to 20 strings are usually played with the shortest string closest to the player. Picking is the most common tehnique which can be used to play melodies often added with accompanying notes. In this technique both hands of the player have an equal role producing both melody and accompaniment notes.

The usual way to play chords on small kanteles is by pulling multiple strings with the fingers of the right hand or a plectrum. The left hand is used to mute strings that don’t belong to the chords.

The big kanteles which usually feature over 30 strings are played with a different technique. They are played eather from the short side with the shortest string facing the player or from the long side with the longest string facing the player. The string is not commonly picked upwards as one would pick the string of a small kantele but it’s rather pulled towards the player with the finger ending up on the string next to the one being sounded. Each hand has a special role: usually the right hand playes the melody whereas the left hand plays chords. Big kanteles (a.k.a box kanteles) were developed during the 19th century when the kantele players begun to want more strings to be able to play modern music. At this point the building technique had to be changed also. Whereas small kanteles were usually built from a single piece of wood big kanteles require construction from several pieces of board. The kantele with halftone mechanics was developed by Paul Salminen in the 1920’s. This made the use of kantele possible in e.g. classical and pop music. The ambitus of a big kantele nowaday ranges from around C to c4.

The sound of a kantele is quiet compared to modern instruments like violin or accordion. In earlier days the world was not as noisy as now and instruments were not required to be loud. This is a reason why kantele was in danger of extinction when new instruments became popular. Nowadays kanteles are often miked to reinforce the sound in concert situatuons.

In Perhonjokilaakso of the Finnish Ostrobothnia (Western parts of Finland) the traditional style of playing the big kantele has been preserved to these days but the tradition of the small kantele has been revived much relying on archive tapes recorded in the beginning of the 20th century in Eastern Finland and Karelia. Nowaday the kantele, however, is alive and well. There are thousands of kantele players and tens of professional kantele musicians in Finland and the instrument has friends and players abroad also.

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