Local Heritage with Waclaw Zimpel


Multi-instrumentalist and producer Waclaw Zimpel's singular sound is shaped by his influences in jazz, electronics, minimalism and roots music, but these styles in no way define his compositions.

The Poznań native's studio-as-an-instrument and improvisational approach can be heard across his albums and collaborations on Multikulti Projekt and Instant Classic. But his second solo long player Massive Oscillations, which is set for release at the end of this month, sees him push the boundaries of possiblity even further, driven by a curiosity to create his own musical language. 

Ahead of his headline show at the Barbican, he shares some Japanese traditional music with us – an interest and philosophy close to his heart…

I have been interested in Japanese traditional music for many years. There was a time I wanted to learn to play Shakuhachi flute. I was listening a lot to the masters playing honkyoku pieces. I even bought a simple shakuhachi, but I didn’t have enough time to develop this interest. I was learning some of those pieces on clarinet, which is not exactly the same, but I was very much inspired by the extraordinary sense of time and space in those compositions. The philosophy of shakuhachi masters is very close to me as well. For them, playing the instrument is a spiritual practice. It is not easy in the modern world to follow such a path but that’s how I see the highs of instrumental practice. Later on I started discovering other forms of Japanese traditional music, finding qualities of contemporary ambient in music of gagaku orchestras or koto and shamisen pieces. I think that, because of this heritage, there is a lot of extraordinary modern drone/ambient music delivered from Japanese artists. I also used to play with amazing musicians from Tokyo as Michiyo Yagi and Tamaya Honda. Those experiences were very important to me in building my own language.

Follow Waclaw Zimpel. Buy Massive Oscillations.


Japanese Traditional Music - Gagaku

Gagaku means “elegant music”. Music which has been performed at Japanese courts from 7th century. It sounds like woods singing when there’s no people around.
It feels so contemporary!

  • Japanese Traditional Music - Gagaku

    Gagaku means “elegant music”. Music which has been performed at Japanese courts from 7th century. It sounds like woods singing when there’s no people around.
    It feels so contemporary!

  • Oshikicho No Choshi (Traditional) - Naomi Sato (Sho)

    Naomi Sato, master of very rare instrument – sho. Here she is performing choshi – a prelude to gagaku performance. Those pieces were written by unknown authors.
    Sho is a prototype of mouth harmonica. There are little brass reeds inside the bamboo pipes. When you close a hole the air makes the reeds vibrate.
    There are similar instruments in other sian countries, based on the same idea. There is sheng in China, khaen in Laos and Northern Thailand or saenghwang in Korea.
    What I love about instruments from this family is that you produce sound by inhaling and exhaling.
    I think it is designed to make you go into a trance immediately.

  • Espacio Ronda - Chiku Za - Shingetsu

    The tradition of Japanese bamboo flute shakuhachi is one of the most unique and mystical musical heritages. Especially 36 honkyoku pieces which were composed and played by komuso monks of suizen (“blowing zen”) Buddhist tradition. By controlling the breath they wanted to control their body and mind to reach enlightenment.
    Shingetsu means heart moon, here it is performed by master Chiku Za.

  • Shakuhachi Flûte De Bambou

    Amazing shamisen player Kineya Shiho and her husband shakuhachi player Hukuda Teruhisa, reaching the highest level of musical mastership.

  • Michiyo Yagi - Song Of The Steppes

    Michiyo Yagi is a very unique koto player from Japan. She comes from a traditional Japanese music background, but she crossed all borders of the origins of koto, taking it to completely different musical realms through free improvisation. She performs and records with important artists from the free jazz scene like Peter Brotzmann, Ken Vandermark or Tony Buck. But Michiyo is not only an amazing koto player and improviser, she also composes and sings beautiful songs like this one.

  • Midori Takada - Through The Looking Glass

    Midori Takada is true mystic. I love this album as a whole piece, but I have a special feeling for “Trompe-l’oeil”. If the spirit is strong, an empty bottle is enough to make music.

  • Hakobune - Part 1

    I think that the concept of ambient music has existed in Japan for centuries. No doubt about it when you listen to shamisen of shakuhachi music. I really love Japanese ambient from the 80s but everybody knows it already. Here is something less known, from Hakobune released by VoxxoV Records

  • Nobuto Suda - Anim

    Anim feels like listening to the air.