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Hibiki Ichikawa – Master of Tsugaru Shamisen (Japanese threestringed instrument)
Hibiki Ichikawa is the only professional player of Tsugaru shamisen; a traditional 3-stringed instrument played using a large pick called a bachi. In recognition of his great skill, he has been qualified to perform under a “Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa”, which is granted only to the most proficient artists. Hibiki frequently performs at festivals and formal occasions, including the Japan Matsuri in Trafalgar Square, and at the Japanese Emperor’s birthday celebrations at the Japanese Embassy, and has also participated in a theatre production at the Edinburgh Festival.
Akari Mochizuki – Professional Japanese folk & blues singer
Akari is from Iwakuni in Yamaguchi prefecture. When she was 3 years old, she started singing enka (a variety of traditional Japanese music which often takes the form of sentimental ballads) thanks to the influence of her father, who was a great fan of the genre. Akari studied drama in Cambridge and modern music in London and started working as a professional singer in 2009. She has performed as an enka and minyo (Japanese folk music) singer for numerous occasions, including WOMAD 2010, Hyper Japan and Japan Matsuri. She has appeared on BBC Radio 3 programme ‘The Verb’ and sung several enka songs.