Interviewed & written by Isao Tokuhashi
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A worldwide quena player whom all Latin music lovers must know – that’s today’s interviewee.
We met him on referral from Luis Carlos Severich, Japan-based Bolivian guitarist whom we interviewed in 2007. We faced Roland Encinas, a Bolivian quena player, two days after we got a phone call from Luis Carlos.
The interview was conducted right before his concert so we didn’t have enough time to go deep into his background. But he talked about his ties with Japan affectionately. However, he had an expression of grief on his face when we broached the subject of the Great East Japan Earthquake, which occurred on March 11, 2011.
50-year career as a quena player
I’ve been playing quena since the 1960s. I’ve performed with various groups in Bolivia and led the music scenes in various periods in history. I’ve been involved in over 100 CD recordings.
Above all, the “Música de Maestros” (Music Masters) project is very important for me. That is a project which enables the reexcavation of Bolivian great masters’ works. Those are played by the “People’s Orchestra” which I organized, consisting of not only Western instruments but also Bolivian ones such as charango and quena. We’ve studied historical masterpieces in depth and reprised them. They are not like music for fun. We’ve learned the great works by meeting composers’ children and hearing about their backgrounds.
In recognition of my years of effort, I was appointed to the Goodwill Ambassador of Bolivian Music by the Bolivian Ministry of Culture 20 years ago. I’ve performed at theaters, universities, elementary schools, junior high schools etc. all over the world.
Over 2000 performances in Japan
I came to Japan as a solo quena player for the first time in ages. This Japan tour, which goes to Osaka, Sendai, Tsukuba, Mito and Tokyo, was realized thanks to the Estudiantina Boliviana, organized by Sho Makino, the Spanish-Japanese interpreter of this interview, other young Japanese people organized following in the footsteps of Música de Maestros. Also, my supporters in Japan helped us a lot.
The Attractiveness of Bolivia Orchestra @ Keyaki Hall
(Shibuya-ku, Tokyo January 24, 2016)
I really wanted to come to Japan with all the members of “Música de Maestros” but I have 30 people so I couldn’t do that. So I, the founder/director of Música de Maestros, and my nephew, Juliano Encinas came here.
Japan and I have been connected with each other since I was appointed to the Goodwill Ambassador of Bolivian Music 20 years ago. I couldn’t come here for some reasons, but I’ve been to Japan almost every year until two years ago. I’ve held over 2,000 concerts here. I hold at least 100 concerts in Japan every year and sometimes I went to a few schools in a single day.
Musical ties between Bolivia and Japan are very long-standing and deep as well. For example, the number of people who have been to Bolivia from Japan to learn music in the past 30 years is 14 in total. Moreover there are about 20 people including some Japanese who learned music in Bolivia at Estudiantina Boliviana. About half of the songs that they play are the ones Música de Maestros made. I’m really happy that there are people who love our music and play them on the other side of the planet.
Heading to Tohoku
We’ll mark the 5th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake very soon. Of course, I went to the devastated areas.
I went on a Japan tour from September 2011 until November 2011. I went all over the country, but I held more concerts in Tohoku than in other years. Aftershocks were still felt there at that time and my audience escaped from an earthquake which occurred during one of my performances. Also, I performed at schools that had lost some of their children.
Then I visited some temporary houses and played. I wanted people to remain joyful and hopeful, so I played songs that everybody knew like “Sukiyaki”.
It was a little bit difficult for me to play those songs. It was not because I played Japanese songs. It was because I was almost crying at the thoughts of audiences’ feelings.
I couldn’t see some people who I met in Tohoku when I came to Japan a long time ago. I really hope they are safe.
Japan is something special to me
I’ve been to many different countries. I’ve been in some countries for a short time, I’ve stayed in other countries for several months.
Above all, to me, Japan is a special country. I feel Japan is like my home. Because I travel through the Japanese archipelago every time I come here. I think only a few Japanese have done it. I’ve been to even an uncharted small island on the southern outskirts of Okinawa. Nothing pleases me more than seeing kids enjoying Bolivian music in such a remote place.
So I really love Japan. I’m really happy that I could come to Japan thanks to people’s support.
Not only coming to Japan but also reuniting Japanese friends who I met during Japan tours and sharing intimate moments with them are very important to my life.
This is a song for Roland’s son. It was made when he was in Japan. While he traveled through Japanese schools to show his performances to children, he felt they looked like his little son who was far away from Japan.
From left to right: Sho Makino, Roland Encinas, Juliano Encinas, Daichi Fukuda
Filmed at Keyaki Hall (Jan 24, 2016)
Music is my life
My musical career will turn half a century in 2016. I’m very happy to perform with energetic young Japanese who want to learn Bolivian culture at such an important milestone.
To me, music is life. So traveling around the world with a quena has been part of life and I love it. I’m a goodwill ambassador of Bolivian music, so I’ll continue to make the world happy with my music.
BTW, please visit my country, Bolivia! There are so many different cultures and music that are well blended so our culture is very rich. You would never want to go back home once you come to Bolivia!
Estudiantina Boliviana (JP & SP)：facebook.com/LaEstudiantinaBoliviana/