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Interview: FUJI|||||||||||TA on the traditional music that inspired him

Japanese sound artist Yosuke Fujita has become known for stunning audiences and listeners with his unique hand-built organ, evoking rich sonic landscapes. His unique and improvisational work is inspired by the traditional Japanese court music known as gagaku, established around the 10th century. As a self-taught enthusiast of gagaku, FUJI|||||||||||TA crafts mesmerizing sounds that channel his prestigious, traditional roots. “I love layering sounds in a way that they wouldn’t be layered traditionally.”

Performing at the 11th edition of Rewire, Yosuke Fujita will bring his distinctive approximation of Japanese gagaku music to the stage with his hand-fabricated pipe organ, consisting 11 pipes and no keyboard. The sound artist known as FUJI|||||||||||TA weaves the mesmerizing tones produced by his organ in a captivating, near-hypnotic whole. In an interview conducted over email, the Japanese musician, composer and performer reflects on the traditional music that has inspired his artistic practice. 

Could you talk more about Japanese gagaku and the ways this musical tradition has inspired your work?

“Gagaku is Japanese classical music with a history of over 1200 years. I was influenced by the tradition of music in a number of ways. My initial interest was not so much in the specific musical theory, but in the use of my imagination in producing the sounds. I learned that musically, even if it is a same, single note, the sound you make while having a distinctive vision is completely different from the sound you make without that vision. It doesn't even matter what that vision is. For example, you can imagine where the sound reaches in the venue — you can even picture it going beyond the venue and reach the whole city. Whatever your vision is, it will affect the sound in a significant way.”

What aspects of Japanese gagaku initially attracted you to studying it?

“The layers of sound are very unique. Most modern music is determined by the harmonious rules invented in Western music. Gagaku's harmonies are clearly out of step with them. I love layering sounds in a way that they wouldn’t be layered traditionally. I would like to make an album in the near future that sublimates this in my own manner. The old Japanese instruments used in gagaku are also very interesting, thanks to their unique overtones. This amazing overtone is difficult to create with electronic sounds. It even sounds more electronic than electronic music.”

Watch "FUJI|||||||||||TA presents “Air Movement” @ Rewire 2021 - online edition" by "Rewire" on

What was the process like of familiarizing yourself and gaining mastery over this form of music?

“I just listened to the records…”

How do you think your modern practice of performing Japanese gagaku relates to or diverges from its traditional roots?

“I am not a traditional gagaku performer, so my activities are also quite different from the context of traditional gagaku. However, I have performed with traditional gagaku players, and there are many other performers who also play gagaku and are actively involved in improvisation. Currently, gagaku is not a style of music that people are generally familiar with, but there are some attempts to promote it through different approaches. In my case, I'm just a fan of classical gagaku, so I'm experimenting with my own expression of the influences I've received from it.”

What are the challenges and possibilities of translating your work to a live setting?

“In my case, I think that working on an album and a live performance are two completely different things. So, I’m trying to do things on stage that can only be done during a live performance, and that, of course, can't be replaced by an album.”

FUJI|||||||||||TA performs live at Rewire 2022 on Sunday 10 April. Tickets available here.