We can find plenty of Veena players in India, but one like Yuko Matoba is definitely rare. Hailing from Japan, Matoba has researched extensively in Carnatic music, and is playing Veena from past couple of decades.
Being an ambassador of the Indo-Japan musical collaborations, Matoba San was sweet enough to answer my ten questions for her.
Below is an excerpt of our conversation.
1. When were you first introduced to Carnatic classical music, and what inspired you to step in and explore?
When I was studying Musicology at Tokyo University of the Arts, I had chosen Indian music as a theme. I was pursuing research under the guidance of Prof. Fumio Koizumi, an ethnomusicologist. As days passed, I could develop immense passion in Indian music and following my great desire to learn in India, the home country of such mesmerizing form of music, I joined the Government Music College of Tamil Nadu in the year 1972. Ever since then, I have been continuing to learn Indian music with short visits.
2. Why did you choose Veena out of many other instruments used in the Indian classical music scenario?
Veena is originally a historical Indian music instrument. It’s amazing sound texture and appearance with all the ivory and colorful resonator attracted me.
3. Any particular concert moment of yours that you would love to relive again?
After every concert, I only regret of not playing without a single mistake! I personally feel that there is no such thing as ‘love to relive’.
4. You are an ambassador of the Indo-Japan cultural and musical collaborations. How do you feel collaborating with musicians from India?
It is always a great feeling and a new experience performing with Indian accompanists. From Day 1, I have felt comfortable performing for the Indian audience in the home land of Carnatic music. It definitely is my privilege.
5. How different or similar is Carnatic music when compared to Japanese music according to you?
Both Japanese and Carnatic music are different forms of Asian music, so we can observe great details given to melody in both forms. However, I feel Carnatic music is more logical in terms of melody and rhythm, and is also a highly developed form of music.
6. Carnatic classical music is highly based on the divine concepts and backgrounds of India. Was this a challenge for you?
We have many Hindu Gods in Japan who came along with Buddhism. We even have a Sarasvati Temple. So, I didn’t specifically feel it as a challenge.
7. Which Indian ragas do you enjoy the most playing on the Veena?
Goula, Simhendramadyamam, and Sri
8. How do people in your home country Japan perceive Carnatic music?
We have been witnessing some Japanese Rasika (Term used to describe people with some knowledge of carnatic music and is able to appreciate it) who love to listen Carnatic music increasing in Japan off-late. They enjoy listening to Carnatic music though they may not understand the Raga concept.
9. Who are your favorite musicians in the Indian classical music scenario
M.S.Subbulakshmi & M.L.Vasanthakumari
10. Can you please share a few tips for the young and upcoming musicians?
I feel it is always very important to believe in yourself and continue in the path you have chosen. You should never give up. Carnatic music is a traditional form of music, completed within itself. My only request to young musicians is to explore this royal form of music and take it global.