Christopher Yohmei Blasdel about the festival’s inception:

On a humid 1996 summer evening in a leafy suburb of Tokyo, Vlastislav Matoušek and I met to discuss shakuhachi music. Vlastislav’s intense dedication inspired me, as I listened intently to his stories of the many obstacles he faced when trying to learn the instrument in his home country. Vlastislav came of age during the Communist regime, a time of extremely little artistic or scholastic freedom. As a student, he was very interested in Asian music, but there were few opportunities to study in Prague and it was impossible for him to leave the country, since he had once been jailed for sharing satirical poems about the government. After the fall of Communism he could finally leave the country, but there was no money available for musicians to travel abroad. Finally, a grant from the Japan Foundation enabled Vlastislav to journey to Japan, his mecca, to study the shakuhachi.

As cicadas sung, livid, in the trees nearby. He paused to listen, and, as if inspired by their sound, turned to me and said, “someday, let’s do an international shakuhachi event in the Czech Republic.” The thought of an ancient Japanese instrument resounding in an ancient European city was intriguing, though at the time I had no idea how we could make it happen.  

Seven years later in 2003, when I was invited to Budapest to perform in the annual Budapest Spring Music Festival, I recalled Vlastislav’s dream. From Budapest it was easy to stop by Prague, and he arranged a small workshop and a few concerts, thereby planting the seeds for something bigger. The next Prague shakuhachi gathering occurred in 2006 and by 2007, we had the rudiments of a festival going. 

And it all began while listening to insects on a summer evening in Tokyo.

This year, 2021, marks the 13thanniversary of the Prague Shakuhachi Festival.