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Sami Elu TEDxTokyo 2016

Sami Elu TEDxTokyo 2016

Music Is for Everyone

Sami Elu lives to share the rhythm, and the setting doesn’t matter. The longtime musician began playing gigs soon after he landed in Japan in 2006 both at established venues and on the street. Although he often plays solo, Sami sometimes collaborates with other musicians and even artists such as calligraphers. Most intriguingly, he fashions his own instruments. We asked Sami a few questions about his inventions and musical intentions.

Why did you start inventing your own instruments?
As a musician my job is to bring music to people. The best way to convey the spirit of joy and liberation that can be achieved through music is for me to be fully immersed in and excited by my own creations. Having studied composition and performed as a pianist in a variety of situations, I’ve often struggled with feeling like I was making music that wasn’t reaching anyone, or that I was playing safe, middle-of-the-road music and boring myself. My vision of where I want to go musically has slowly fermented over time and led me to some core ideas:

– Creative music as a revolutionary act
– The validity of all sounds
– Music in public areas
– Interactive music

I discovered that one of the most exciting propositions for me was to create sound installations that would improve the quality of life in a community, much in the same way gardens, trees and flowers do.
I’m still not creating works at that level yet, but to set out on the journey I had to take action and start building my future from scrap materials.

Several years ago I decided to start my own mini-flea market, play improvised music on my handmade bamboo koto, and sell wind chimes and CDs. So I went out to shopping streets at night, little outdoor festivals, and parks. Now making instruments has become an all-consuming part of my life.

Where do you find the materials you use to make what you play?
I pick stuff out of scraps and garbage at industrial warehouses, old electronic equipment left on the street, broken bicycles, bamboo from the forest, and whatever else I can find. I also scour hundred yen shops, home centers and the Internet for special parts. It’s good to have crafty friends as sources of material, too, especially good wood.

When people attend your workshops, what do you want them to understand about music?
That it’s awesome. It frees the mind. It makes you smile. It connects you with everyone around you. Anyone can do it, and anything is possible. There are no rules except for the ones we arbitrarily decide. And hitting on cans with chopsticks can be just as good or enjoyable and inspirational as listening to the world’s most respected and popular musicians.

Doug Jackson

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