“A fascinating fusing of ancient Japanese and Eastern instruments and musical traditions with unique, modern configurations”
Co-founded by Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos and Eien Hunter-Ishikawa, Maru is blazing new trails through the organic combination of the shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) and taiko (Japanese drums). With an emphasis on improvisation, the group freely integrates elements from Japanese folk, classical, and festival music as well as jazz, rock, ambient, and a wide range of world music influences. Maru incorporates the Japanese concept of ma, or interval, to highlight their ceaseless exploration of new textures and to create both affinity and contrast between eastern and western impressions.
Additional instruments of Maru include shinobue (Japanese transverse flute), biwa (Japanese lute), Australian didgeridoo, Armenian duduk, koto, vocals, vibraphone, drumset, and an array of percussion sounds. With extensive training in Japanese traditional music as well as European classical music and jazz, Ryuzen and Hunter-Ishikawa strive to respect history while making use of unconventional techniques in creating original work. Deeply inspired by Japanese festival music, lullabies, and meditation, these highly experienced performers will take you on a journey of sound that will move your body and soul. “The bridge between this world and the other world (spirit), cultures, and realities is the empty space where there is room for music to enter,” Ramos says in his artist statement.
Eien Hunter‐Ishikawa is a versatile drummer, percussionist, and taiko player with a multifaceted musical background. Born in Japan, his passion for drumming started at an early age through the involvement of a youth taiko ensemble directed by Saburo Mochizuki, a founding member of Tokyoʼs pioneering taiko ensemble Sukeroku Daiko. He earned his Bachelor of Music Education at Central Michigan University, where he performed, recorded, and toured as a member of the Robert Hohner Percussion Ensemble under the direction of the late Robert Hohner, and his Master of Music at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. During his time in Honolulu, Eien performed and toured extensively as a member of the Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble throughout the United States and Europe and taught classes at the Taiko Center of the Pacific, a school of traditional and contemporary taiko. Currently based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Eien collaborates with shakuhachi artist Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos to present category-defying music with his ensemble Maru. He has also performed with On Ensemble, electro- acoustic groups Isshin Denshin Atmospheric Ensemble and Haagen & Ryuzen, TomoeArts dancer/actor/choreographer Colleen Lanki, Michael O’Neill’s bagpipe ensemble Mearingstone, Vancouver’s Silk Road Music, Uzume Taiko, the African band Kow Kanda, and the rock/reggae band Still Creek. Eien has performed at the North American Taiko Conference, Vancouverʼs Powell Street Festival, Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Dancing on the Edge Festival, Hawaii International Taiko Festival, Honolulu International Jazz Festival, and the Detroit Montreux Jazz Festival. A very active instructor of percussion, taiko, and shinobue, he has presented workshops at the North American Taiko Conference and the Pacific Northwest Regional Taiko Gathering and continues to conduct workshops and teach private lessons for various ensembles and players of all ages and levels.
Ryuzen (Alcvin Ramos) is one of the leading teachers and performers of the shakuhachi in the world today. Born in Japan, Ryuzen lived there for several years where he studied shakuhachi under several teachers including Katsuya Yokoyama, Kaoru Kakizakai, Teruo Furuya, and Atsuya Okuda learning the instrument’s varied repertoire: honkyoku (original zen pieces), sankyoku (secular chamber music), and gendai kyoku (new style pieces.) He has also studied biwa (Japanese lute) and katari mono (narrative singing) with celebrated biwa master, Yukio Tanaka, as well as shinobue (Japanese sideblown flute), and hichiriki (gagaku oboe). Additionally, he studied shakuhachi construction with several makers including Shugetsu Yamaguchi, Murai Eigoro, and Atsuya Okuda. In 2001, he received a shihan (master) license from Katsuya Yokoyama, a leading exponent of the instrument, and founder of the International Shakuhachi Training Centre. In 2008, in recognition of his skill and spreading shakuhachi around the world, Alcvin received an honorary dai shihan (grand master) license from another one of Japan’s greatest players and teachers, Yoshinobu Taniguchi, taking the new name, Ryuzen (Dragon Meditation) making him the first Canadian and one of only a handful of non-Japanese to receive this esteemed honor. Ryuzen is also a composer and player of a variety of instruments and has been experimenting with new ways of playing traditional instruments as well as with synthesized and electronic music. He has taught and performed all over North America, Europe and Japan, and pursues an active solo as well as collaborative career, playing with such distinguished artists as Bill Laswell, Hun Huur Tu Mongolian Throat Singers, The Vancouver Sinfoniefa, Toshinori Kondo, Joseph Pepe Danza, Haagen & Ryuzen, and Uzume Taiko, as well as with dancer Colleen Lanki, and bagpipe fusion band Mearingstone. He has opened for Anoushka Shankar and the Yoshida Brothers and has recorded both classical shakuhachi music and fusion pieces with the groups Dharmakasa, Uzume Taiko, Densabi, Isshin Denshin, and more recently Maru, a duo with taiko and percussionist, Eien Hunter-Ishikawa. He has also performed at the World Shakuhachi Festivals in New York and Sydney Australia, Vancouver Jazz Festival, Vancouver New Music Festival, the World Sacred Music Festival in Japan, the Vancouver Sacred Music Festival, Entheos, Shambhala Music Festival. He is the founder and director of the Bamboo-In Shakuhachi Retreat Centre on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.