When the international market for anime collapses, Japan can export fingerpickers. Akihiro Tanaka took second place in the International Fingerstyle Championship at the Walnut Valley Festival two years ago, first place last year, and was a featured performer this year. Meanwhile, Tomoake Kawabata placed second in this year’s contest Thursday.
Playing “Blackberry Blossom,” “Mockingbird” or “Orange Blossom Special” ((I heard about 45 minutes of “Orange Blossom Special” in one afternoon at the first bluegrass festival I ever attended. Every single band with a fiddler, and one without, played it, and played it. I left the festival ten minutes into Doug Kershaw’s rendition.)) during the fiddle competition is an automatic disqualification. I’d like to add “Ragtime Annie” to the list, for all the contests.
I wish the festival officials would decide once and for all whether to allow yangqin players in the hammered dulcimer competition or not. Every two or three years one will enter. How he fares has no relationship to how well he plays. ((I almost never agree with the judges’ decisions in any Winfield competition; the performances apparently matter less than how hungover the judges are and what drugs they are on.)) Some do quite well, taking home a trophy and a new occidental dulcimer; others, such as the young lady above warming up for Saturday’s contest, don’t, even though they sound as good or better as the more successful contestants. My guess is that some judges don’t consider the yangqin to be a proper hammered dulcimer, or they just don’t like its characteristic repertoire.
Here are some more snapshots from the festival.
There are more pictures here.