Satsuki Odamura — koto

Satsuki Odamura (pictured with guitarist Geoffrey Morris) is a Master of the Koto, and as representative of the Sawai International Koto School has pioneered the introduction of teaching and and performing on this ancient Japanese instrument to Australian students, musicians and audiences since 1989.

The koto is a zither-like instrument two metres in length which has thirteen strings, originally made of silk. It is constructed of paulownia wood with movable bridges and is played with ivory picks. The bass koto (jushichigen) has seventeen strings.

Satsuki underwent the discipline of being a live-in student at the home of her teachers Tadao and Kazue Sawai. This has influenced her performances and her approach in collaboration with other artists.

She has worked with Australian, European and Asian artists worldwide. She is a member of the ELISION ensemble; Nadoya, a music/theatre/dance group; Shashaten, with Butoh dancer Yumi Umiumare; the music-fusion group Sangam, and the cross-cultural group Slivanye. Satsuki has performed with symphony orchestras, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, with Synergy, shakuhachi player Riley Lee, Jim Denley (flute), and Greg Dickmans (baroque recorders).

Foremost among Satsuki's aspirations is to create the potential for people who have no previous knowledge of the koto or its cultural setting to compose music for the instrument. She believes that these people are able to create new directions for the koto, which would be impossible for any Japanese to conceive.

Australian composers who have written for her instrument include Peter Sculthorpe, Carl Vine, Barry Conyngham, Michael Askill, Anthony Briggs, Anne Boyd, Sarah de Jong and Liza Lim.

Satsuki Odamura has recorded two compact discs: Like a Bird (Tall Poppies), of works by Japanese contemporary composers; and Burning House (on the Australian Music Centre label Vox Australis) after the title piece by Liza Lim, a world-first CD which consists entirely of works by Australian composers. She is featured on the CDs Sisters (Celestial Harmonies), Earthcore II (EMI/ABC). In 1997 she also released Picture Dreams with Riley Lee.

Satsuki has performed at Festivals in and outside of Australia: Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Bellingen, WOMAD, and in Berlin, Bayreuth, Hong Kong, Bang on a Can in New York and in Huddersfield. She has toured Germany, Norway, Austria, Italy, Russia, Indonesia, Thailand and throughout Japan.

Satsuki teaches the koto in Sydney and at Monash University in Melbourne, and gives sessions for shakuhachi players wishing to be accompanied by the koto.

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