A three-stringed plucked lute with a modified rectangular body and a long unfretted neck, the Japanese shamisen is the backbone of various song styles of Japanese music for theater and of traditional folk music. It is the most important instrument of Kabuki providing instrumental support for the nagauta or “long song,” the principal musical style of that theater.
Hideko Nakajima began her study of shamisen music at age 6 in Tokyo and received the highest degree possible, the Shihan, from Hideo Fujimoto, the founder of the Fujimoto-Ryu School of Shamisen Music in Tokyo. She has mastered many traditional styles of song including the nagauta, and short forms like the hauta and the minyo, traditional folk music styles.
In 2004, Hideko’s participation in ACTA’s Traditional Arts Development Program hired consultant Francis Wong, co-founder and creative director of Asian Improv aRts, to develop a marketing plan and subsequent materials for her. Mr. Wong is a professional producer and nonprofit arts administrator based in the Asian Pacific Islander community for the past 25 years. His consultancy to Hideko included assessing her current marketing materials and opportunities for her to work as a teacher and performer; created a plan to market her work throughout California to arts, educational and community institutions; and created updated and improved marketing materials. This marketing assistance developed awareness among the public of Hideko as a master artist, developed her capacity to seek professional opportunities for performances and residencies, and articulated the value of Japanese traditional music that she presents to institutions and to the general public.
In 2003, Hideko was a master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program with apprentice Melody Takata. The apprenticeship focused on refining Melody’s technique on the shamisen so that she and her teacher can perform together and impart their love of traditional Japanese music to others.