Birth of Bachido
Returning from my first trip to Japan was a bit of a challenge, and one of the questions I faced was where to go with shamisen from there? Up until now, shamisen was only a side project in my life.
However, worldwide orders for Shamisen of Japan steadily continued since it’s release in 2009. Real proof of worldwide shamisen interest was a great surprise to my family as well as myself, so I had a bit more allowance to further pursue this project.
With Shamisen of Japan available, people finally had a resource for learning shamisen on their own. Judging from the customer’s shipping addresses, I could see that many people actually lived quite close to each other.
Going to Japan and seeing shamisen enthusiasts come together at tournaments (despite the competitiveness), it became apparent that the next step was to form an international community and bring all shamisen enthusiasts together (in a supportive environment).
So I spent the next year composing the foundation of an international community with the underlying goal of providing all the resources to make shamisen as accessible as possible.
In this new international shamisen community, I wanted to give newcomers the resource to learn the basics of shamisen in a free, easy-to-use crash course. Next, I wanted people to be able to obtain their shamisen and accessories with ease of mind. And above all, I wanted a forum where people could exchange ideas and encourage each other.
After lots of writing and coding (thanks to my brother/Boy Genius Luke, who’s 20+ years of programming experience was paramount), Bachido was founded and those three resources (mentioned above) were created!
The First Three Resources of Bachido:
Free Crash Course: Before releasing Bachido, I spent about 3~6 months making a free crash course so anyone could immediately start learning shamisen. My father had zero shamisen experience, so he was the perfect beta tester!
After filming what I thought was a great simple course, I gave my father a shamisen and he tried it out. Within five minutes, he handed the shamisen back to me saying, “This is impossible for beginners.” In hindsight, he was right. I was trying to teach Rokudan (a “basic” but difficult tsugaru piece) in the first lesson! What was I thinking??
This experience formed another pillar of the Bachido mindset: Keep it simple! I rewrote the material many times until finally composing a course that he could understand and play along with. If he (a complete beginner) could easily use this course, I knew that 98% of users would be able to learn shamisen with great ease. (So far, that’s proven to be true!)
The Bachido Store: A major difficulty in starting shamisen is actually getting a shamisen. Most online shamisen shops aren’t written in english, and with the few that are, there’s very little detailed information about the instruments and accessories. Thus, I wanted to present the Bachido Store as a place to learn about the shamisen and it’s accessories, and acquire them comfortably.
So, I contacted my friend Masahiro Nitta (who visited Santa Cruz with Kevin many years prior) and asked if he had any suggestions for suppliers. As it turned out, he was about to start his own shamisen shop! So at that point, we teamed up to provide the world with an all-English resource for shamisen goods straight from Japan!
Community: The main pillar of the Bachido, the community. Because Luke had developed a great community setup for my family’s site, The Toneway Project, he could simply port that over to Bachido!
Admittedly, I didn’t think the community would be very active. A day after Bachido was unveiled and a few folks signed up, someone posted a question. I sighed and thought, “I guess I’ll have to be the main responder/moderator here.” But to my great surprise, within a day, someone else signed up to Bachido and gave a very knowledgeable answer!
Ever since then, more and more people kept coming, either with newfound interest in shamisen or experienced players wanting to be part of the community.
The Growth of Bachido
Bachido has grown so much since 2011. Bachido now features a Schoolhouse where everyone can learn new songs and skills from talented Bachido-certified shamisen instructors. I’ve also started an educational Blog to bring more depth to technique questions, engage in theoretical subjects of shamisen, and read the experiences of other Bachido members!
As of recently, we’ve started workshop events (ShamiCamp), literally bring our community together to enjoy the social bonding and friendships which I experienced in Japan! (Of course, based in supportive education rather than a competitive tournament.) Hand-in-hand, we’re continuing to grow and develop our goal of spreading shamisen instruction with fun and passion!
Principles of the Bachido
Starting from the explorative way I learned music as a child all the way to the open-minded approach from many talented shamisen players and makers, everything mentioned in these four articles is what built the foundation of Bachido. Namely, encouraging and celebrating everyone’s ideas and exploration with the shamisen.
Everything I learned was from the generosity of many, so writing Shamisen of Japan and starting Bachido felt like my way to give back to the world. To my delight, almost everyone in the Bachido Community shares this open-minded view. What’s more, they too give back to the community by enthusiastically helping new beginners and encouraging us all to strive on with passion!
I truly feel that anyone can play shamisen and bring out something special inside them while they bring sound out of the instrument. There’s something in shamisen for all of us. Let’s see what we can do with it, and most importantly, have fun!!
Kyle Big K Abbott
Founder of Bachido