The Genji Pianists play beautiful music for a good cause

On Sunday evening, the second-ever Ghibli Night, featuring the Genji Pianists, welcomed fans of music and Studio Ghibli films, for a night of delicious eats, nostalgia and all around good vibes. Marusan Comptoir Japonais, a small restaurant on Notre-Dame, hosted the event. Both trained in classical music, Sho Takashima and Saki Uchida make up the piano duo Genji Pianists. Originally founded by Takashima and formerly named the Genji Project, the group previously included musicians playing violin, cello and guitar before the musicians went their separate ways. Wanting to continue the project, Takashima found Uchida.

“We both found out we had this huge passion for music, and we realized that there weren’t that many musical events in town that were about Japanese culture, Japanese music,” said Uchida. Uchida said she noticed there was a large Ghibli fan-base in Montreal, so it made sense to have a concert showcasing the music from Studio Ghibli films. Studio Ghibli Inc., an iconic Japanese animation studio, is known for creating incredible films with highly-developed characters, creative worlds, accompanied by emotional and riveting music. Films such as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and My Neighbor Totoro, to name a few, have gained popularity in recent years in North America.

“It’s like the Disney of the [Eastern] world,” said Uchida. Having both grown up watching the films, the duo spoke fondly of listening to Ghibli music. When asked about the difficulty in learning the music of Ghibli, Takashima said, “it came naturally. It was like when you see the scores and know right away the scenes.” Besides wanting to share their love of their culture and Ghibli through music, a big part of their shows is to raise awareness about the people in Japan still suffering from the impacts of the 2011 tsunami and earthquake. Proceeds from all their concerts, Ghibli Nights included, go to Kizuna Japon, a Montreal-based group that allows you to donate to several non-profit organizations.

For Takashima and Uchida, giving support to Japan is of vital importance. Born and raised in Japan, Takashima explained how she experienced the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. When she moved to Montreal in 2012, she began the Genji Project to entertain people with beautiful music, but also to spread awareness about the tragedy in Japan and all the people who were affected by it. “We felt we had to help in some way, to spread love for music and love for Ghibli, but also to raise awareness and money for charities that sends money to Japan,” she said. Although they haven’t decided which specific charity to donate to yet, they are looking at the Fukushima Children Fund, which donates money to children suffering from radiation and living in radiation-active areas in Japan.

The Genji Pianists at Ghibli night. Photo courtesy of Sho Takashima & Saki Uchida

As Takashima and Uchida took their seats side-by-side behind the electric piano, while clips from the film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind were projected onto a blank wall behind them. I felt goosebumps down my arms as I listened to them play. Their final song, the most recognizable one and the main theme song from Howl’s Moving Castle, gave me flashbacks to my first experiences watching these films and the joy they continue to bring me.

Takashima described a previous performance when, as they played music from Princess Mononoke, Uchida commented on just how beautiful the song was. They both laughed as they remembered the moment. Their admiration for the music is evident and just goes to show that these movies are classic and will always have an impact on viewers.

The Genji Pianists play a variety of shows and musical styles, from classical music to anime televisions series and video game theme songs. Follow the Genji Pianists on their Facebook group to stay in the loop.

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