If you’re going to Promontory Point this weekend you might hear the elegant sounds of a Japanese flute reverberating inside the tunnel entrance that will remind you of something long forgotten.
Jia Senghe, plays a Japanese flute called the shakuhachi and loves to practice his art at the Point.
The shakuhachi was developed in the 16th century and used by monks of Zen Buddhism as a spiritual tool. The songs they played on it were called “honkyoku” and were paced according to the players’ breathing and considered meditation (suizen). The shakuhachi is known for its rich tone coloring and subtlety, which gives it a dreamy, haunting sound.
It had to be a surprise for people who were at the Point to enjoy some fun in the sun, only to encounter music played on the shakuhachi that stirred their souls.
Senghe started playing the flute in the 1970’s and a decade later, he discovered the shakuhachi. For years, he listened to Japanese players and learned all he could. Then he met an American who studied the shakuhachi in Japan and taught him the subtleties of how to play the instrument.
“The shakuhachi is a form of meditation,” says Senghe. “It’s a way to connect spiritually with nature and the universe.” He believes he was attracted to Japanese music because he lived in Japan as a young child and his parents exposed him to the Japanese culture.
“When I play, I often feel a range of emotions from sadness to joy and gratitude – these are the things that I want people to feel when I play – that there’s an underlying essence to life that is revealed through the music.”
Senghe plays the Shakuhachi at various locations around the city, and he is looking to play at other venues as opportunities arise.
“My favorite place to play at the moment is in the tunnel leading to the Promontory Point in Hyde Park,” says Senghe. “The sounds of the shakuhachi resonate there, and I enjoy playing for people coming and going to the lake.”
Senghe enchants the patrons of Zen Shiatsu in Evanston with Japanese folk music on Tuesdays from 7-9. He says it’s a great place to come hear him play and receive relaxing bodywork.
You can also hear him play at Ellie’s cafe at 10717 S. Hale in Beverly on Sundays, from noon to 3 pm.