The music for 'On an Eastern breeze' is performed on the traditional Japanese instruments of 'koto' and 'shamisen'.
The SHAMISEN is a three stringed, long-necked lute, often compared to a type of banjo. It has a fretless wooden neck and a body which makes an oblong frame over which is stretched a skin. The silk strings are struck with a large plectrum, called a 'bachi'.
The KOTO is one of a number of different types of zither that have developed across the countries of North-east and South-east Asia. The koto has thirteen strings stretched over the 180cm long hollow body of the instrument. The strings are played using three finger picks attached to the right hand and tuning is achieved by changing the position of the individual bridges holding each string.
The music performed by Sankakei is a mixture of traditional Japanese tunes by various composers and original pieces written by Michael Graham. 'Rokudan' for example, one of the tunes used in 'On an Eastern breeze', was written around 1680 and is a well known Japanese classical piece. 'Aki no sumi' in contrast was only written in 2012. As well as drawing on the Japanese classical music repertoire, some Japanese folk tunes are also arranged and used, reflecting the broad cross-section of styles that the shamisen and koto often perform.
Mostly the music is written for the Oriental pentatonic scale, however occasionally Western tunings are also utilised.