This CD offers a collection of traditional Japanese pieces for the Biwa, the Japanese lute, which came to Japan from China at the end of the first millennium. The Biwa and its playing remained pretty much the same as it was 800 to 1,000 years ago, while the Chinese Pi-pa, its ancestor, has changed quite considerably, becoming a more virtuosic instrument. The instrument is unfortunately losing popularity in Japan among youngsters mainly because of the influence of Western music, as is the case in many Asian countries. There are solo pieces (the first two pieces) as well as old epic stories and songs accompanied by the Biwa (the four others). Three different schools of playing the Biwa are presented: the Satsuma-Biwa, the Chikuzen-Biwa, and Heike-Biwa. The Biwa was originally played by blind monks, and the Heike-Biwa is the most popular. ~ Bruno Deschênes, All Music Guide
A beautiful biwa brought to Japan through the Silk Road is preserved at Shoso-In in Nara prefecture. Japan's oldest epic tale, Heike Monogatari (the Story of Heike) is sung to biwa accompaniment. There are three playing styles of biwa, Heike Monogatari featuring all three; the noble and profound Heike biwa, the wild Satsuma biwa and the graceful Chikuzan biwa.