Internet Show & Tell No.2: O-Bon

The end of July marks O-bon time in Japan, a tradition honouring ancestors. Based on the old Lunar calendar, many families go off visiting their home villages to visit their loved ones from both sides, on what amongst the living falls around the date of July 15th.

Of course you can’t let your ghosts go hungry…O-bon refers to the container of offerings. This can be food for your otherworldly guests or something else that’s pleasing, like some ethereal floating lanterns.

Photo: Mitchell Adams (2006) Sourced from Flickr.
Photo: Mitchell Adams (2006) Sourced from Flickr.

As could be expected a unique kind of O-bon folk music & dance get a work out in celebrations:

As O-bon is also known as Hungry Ghost Month, i’ll throw in another folk song about ghosts for good measure (& as there are many to choose from!). This one’s an English ballad, referred to as Child Ballad 78 or The Unquiet Grave performed by the lovely Joan Baez:

For a much more comprehensive look at O-bon/Hungry Ghost Month

Advertisements

Wabi-Sabi & Singing

Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese view and aesthetic that defines beauty that embraces imperfections and impermanence. It is an antidote to homogeneity. A beautiful practice within this philosophy is Kintsukuroi, the act of mending broken pottery with gold. The effect shines a light on flawed beauty- in a way the broken object becomes more beautiful.

kintsukuroi
Wabi-sabi may unintentionally present itself in vocal warmups. Sometimes the little discoveries we make about our own voice come from times when you feel like you are simply mucking around. Singing teachers and students may recognise moments like this when you are attempting to make the ugliest of sounds, such as a witches cackle, low heavy sobs or a deep and unguarded laugh. If singing is an act of being a conduit for emotions and stories, the most believable and beautifully heartfelt doesn’t always equate to technical perfection. Think of the unique and recognisable voices of your favourite singers.

newsom
singer Joanna Newsom

Another wabi-sabi consideration is the way that the voice changes over time. The voice can take on different characteristics and abilities as we age. You can read a bit about the common changes here: http://www.entnet.org/content/voice-and-aging

Using elements of wabi-sabi in your singing practice could mean releasing your judgement and embracing your own unique sound. An essential in healthy singing method is to be relaxed. This will ease up muscles and breathing, allowing your voice to flow freely and safely. You may find the parameters of your vocal range and ability actually expand by being relaxed. As Bill Murray said, “the more relaxed you are, the better you are at everything”.

Bill Murray knows best
Bill Murray knows best