[ Thumbnail ] Deepening the Love for Instruments and Culture #3

Deepening the Love for Instruments and Culture

#3 Affection Passed On Through Music

July 19, 2023

There’s a certain kind of affection that develops as you spend more time with something. Whether it’s a musical instrument you play for years, or a musical culture you grew up listening to — over time, it becomes a priceless treasure near and dear to your heart. The AMIGO Project, a program that teaches the knowledge and skills of musical instrument maintenance, and the PSR-I Series, a localized portable keyboard line that incorporates the diverse sounds of Indian music, were both born from Yamaha’s celebration of musical affection. They encourage individuals to develop close, loving relationships with their instruments and native cultures. The magic of affection is that, when nurtured continuously over time, it can be passed on through generations. This is the Key that drives the stories of the AMIGO Project and the Indian keyboard.

Relationships Forged Through Caring and Use

The longer you use a musical instrument, the more the instrument becomes uniquely yours, bearing your personal mark and the intimate memories you have shared. The AMIGO Project helps children in Latin America use and enjoy musical instruments for as long as possible, by giving them the knowledge and skills needed for effective instrument maintenance. The initiative embodies a key process in sowing the seeds of affection in children’s hearts.

“When you feel affection for something, it makes you want to hold onto it for a long time,” says Toshiaki Higuchi, a member of Yamaha’s B&O Business Unit and the AMIGO Project. A clarinetist since high school, Higuchi still plays the same clarinet he used as a teenager. He has kept it all these years, caring and tending to it, and has developed an intimate bond with it. “Because clarinets are made of wood, no two clarinets are the same. My clarinet is one in a million, and it’s unique in its own way. I think the instrument and I have a special bond, and I treat it as if it were my own child.”

[ Thumbnail ] Toshiaki Higuchi of B&O business unit, B&O Marketing & Sales Group
Toshiaki Higuchi of B&O business unit, B&O Marketing & Sales Group

While Higuchi is currently responsible for raising awareness about the importance of instrument maintenance, it was in high school that he experienced his own “wake-up call” regarding maintenance. One day, he noticed a crack in his clarinet, likely caused by the lack of moisture removal after playing it. With a heavy heart, he took his clarinet to a repair technician at a music store, and fortunately for him, they were able to promptly repair it. He recalls how relieved he felt when his beloved clarinet came back to him in one piece. Since then, he has treated his clarinet with the utmost care.

Bringing Music That is Near and Dear to the Heart

Meanwhile, the Indian keyboard — equipped with functions that allow users to replicate the diverse sound of India’s traditional music — encourages Indian music lovers to deepen their love for the music of their home country. Music streaming services have made it easy to access music from around the world, but Tsukasa Yamashita, who works on the product planning for the Indian keyboard, feels that “in the end, people feel the most connection and familiarity with the music of their own countries.”

Yamashita elaborates further: “For example, I think most people in India feel more comfortable listening to vocals in their mother tongue, rather than in languages that are alien to their ears. Also, Indian music has distinct rhythms that cannot be replicated with Western musical instruments. I think the reason why the Indian keyboard resonated with locals is because it allows them to wholeheartedly enjoy music that is near and dear to their hearts.”

[ Thumbnail ] Tsukasa Yamashita of Digital Musical Instrument Division, Digital Musical Instrument Strategy Planning Group
Tsukasa Yamashita of Digital Musical Instrument Division, Digital Musical Instrument Strategy Planning Group

Passing Love from Generation to Generation

Love and affection for a musical instrument or culture can sometimes be intergenerational. When you see how much someone in the past has cared for something, it can inspire you to care for it with an equal amount of affection.

In Brazil, one of the countries where Yamaha conducts the AMIGO Project, many families have musical instruments that they pass down from generation to generation. Italo Balbo, who works for Yamaha Musical do Brasil (YMDB), says he has heard many stories about people receiving their instruments from their parents and grandparents, or musicians dreaming of passing their instruments down to their own children.

Professions are also very commonly passed down in the family. Luciano Alves, who is a technical expert at YMDB, followed in his father's footsteps to become a technician and musician. Alves often invites his 16-year-old daughter to the YMDB workshop to teach her about instrument repair. “Who knows? Maybe his daughter will also be a technician someday too,” says Balbo with a smile.

[ Thumbnail ] Italo Balbo of Yamaha Musical do Brasil (YMDB)
Italo Balbo of Yamaha Musical do Brasil (YMDB)

The desire to pass down affection from one generation to the next also resonated with Yamashita and his team as they developed the Indian keyboard PSR-I500. When sampling for the Indian keyboard, they made an effort to include instruments that have been passed down through generations in India. Some Indian music is still passed down through oral tradition. “With some forms of traditional music, we had no written resources to work with,” says Yamashita. “There were no musical notations that were easily understandable for outsiders like us, and sometimes we didn’t even know how the instruments were played.” The solution was to go to the regions themselves and ask the local musicians to play for them in person. This is how Yamashita and the team were able to sample traditional rhythms and sounds for the Indian keyboard.

The Sound of Hearts in Harmony

Needless to say, communication plays an extremely important role in nurturing affection — especially when working across different languages and cultures.

During his time in Latin America, where the official languages are Spanish and Portuguese, Higuchi experienced the “language barrier” causing a bottleneck in project management.

“For me, the most important thing is communication, or getting to know each other on a deep level,” he says, recalling his time in Panama. “Even when I think I have the perfect idea, I need to remember that each person thinks differently. Unless I understand where the locals are coming from, there is no way for me to truly know what they really need. This is why, to this day, I still prioritize meeting and talking to people face to face.”

Yamashita shares the same sentiment. Whenever he struggled to navigate through the nuance and complexity of a foreign culture, he sought out clues within his conversations with members of the local team.

“Even within the local team, there would be differences in opinions based on each person’s background or personal preference. Sometimes it was difficult to reach a consensus, but as the person in charge of product planning, I had the responsibility of making the final call. Anytime I was unclear about the matter at hand, I made sure to talk it through. If a local member asked me which sound sample I thought was better, I would reflect the question back to hear their opinion. Even then, I had to be mindful that their answers may be skewed by personal preference. This trial-and-error process is crucial in product development, and helped me flesh out a direction that would fulfill the promise of an Indian keyboard.”

It was this kind of extensive communication with locals that supported Higuchi and Yamashita throughout their missions. They know from experience that nurturing affection towards music requires a vast amount of time and effort.

Love and affection are born when you take care of something that you have a special connection with. It could be a clarinet that is one-of-a-kind, or a traditional musical phrase that you grew up listening to. Whatever it is, love is born when your heart is moved, sparking a feeling of intimacy that is one of a kind.

The work of Higuchi, Balbo, and Yamashita helps people develop an affection for music. For Higuchi and Balbo, it could mean teaching Latin American children that caring for musical instruments is caring for themselves. For Yamashita, it could mean asking Indian people which sounds resonate most with them. In every case, all three of them make a conscious and continuous effort to communicate, with the unbending belief that nurturing love and affection is the Key to enriching people’s lives.

(Interview date: March 2023)

Previous Page #2 Growing Seeds of Joy for a Growing Nation

Three-Part Series: Deepening the Love for Instruments and Culture

#1 Nurturing Musical Culture in Latin America Through Instrument Maintenance

#2 Growing Seeds of Joy for a Growing Nation

#3 Affection Passed On Through Music

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