Ten
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Ten

New York City, New York, United States | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
Band Alternative Rock

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"New York-Based Rock Band Features the Ancient Sound of the Japanese Koto"

At the age of twelve, Yuki Yasuda began taking koto lessons in her native Japan. While she still admires and plays traditional songs on the ancient instrument, when she takes the stage these days, she dons a Tool T-shirt rather than a kimono, and her koto playing sounds more like this:

Yasuda is a member of Ten, a three-piece hard rock/alternative band based in New York City. She and her husband, bass player Atsushi Asano, formed the band in Japan in 2005. The couple came to New York in 2009 and added drummer Paola Viteri, a native of Ecuador, after she answered an ad on MySpace.

Asano and Yasuda came to New York because “Japan doesn’t receive our music,” says Asano, alluding to the fact that Ten’s harder edge and English lyrics aren’t popular in their homeland. Although Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and countless Western acts enjoy great success in Japan, Japanese bands are expected to sing in Japanese.

“My influences are Tool, Korn, Papa Roach,” says Asano. “They all sing in English, so I write songs and sing in English, too.”

Another reason for leaving their homeland is that they simply didn’t fit in with the rigid structure of Japanese society. “Japan doesn’t like him,” Yasuda says of her soft-spoken and seemingly reserved husband, referring to his tattooed arms and long beard. Wanting more freedom for themselves and their music, Asano and Yasuda packed up their bass guitars and kotos and headed to the States.

It’s ironic that while Ten shuns its Japanese tradition, the essence of the band is defined by a traditional instrument of Japan. Although the ancient koto is the focal point of Ten, Yasuda and Asano maintain that the centuries of tradition behind it don’t come into play when they make their brand of music.

“He doesn’t think about the koto,” says Yasuda of Asano’s songwriting process. After Asano writes a song, Yasuda, who says she’s playing the role of the guitarist, applies her interpretation of the song to fit her style of koto playing. “We don’t think about the Japanese sound or the koto sound,” says Yasuda, who says she adapts the “guitar part” into the way the koto should sound, changing the technique from classical to Ten’s darker and heavier style.

While Yasuda and Asano almost downplay the tradition of the koto, the fact that the koto is unique in rock and alternative music is the very reason Viteri relishes playing in Ten. “The challenge to show something so non-traditional in [today’s] music and so traditional in traditional music is an oxymoron, but it’s very interesting,” says Viteri, “and it’s definitely a challenge.”

It’s a challenge for Viteri’s drums not to overpower the delicate twang of the koto. She wants audiences to appreciate the one-of-a-kind blend of past and present that Ten offers. As a result, Viteri says it forces her to focus on her playing, which has made her a better drummer.

The band has not yet released a CD, but they continue to grow their fan base through in the Internet. “We’ve gotten our following from our Facebook page and YouTube,” says Viteri. Since the cost of studio time is at a premium, Viteri says the trio will polish their songs to perfection before thinking about recording.

In the meantime, keep up with Ten through their website and Facebook page, and hear their unique sound on MySpace and YouTube.



- JapanCulture NYC


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Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Ten is an alternative rock band based in New York that blends the ancient sound of the Japanese koto with contemporary music instruments like the bass and drums. The name of the band means "Heaven" in Japanese.

Ten was founded in 2005 in Tokyo, Japan by husband and wife Atsushi Asano (Vocals & Bass) and Yuki Yasuda (13-string koto & 17-string koto).
Asano came up with a new idea that blends rock music and the Japanese traditional instrument without a guitar by meeting Yasuda who has given body and soul to the koto.
Ten released two EPs, performed many concerts, went on tours all over Japan, appeared at several Jazz festivals and did several acoustic shows in Japan. In June 2009, Ten relocated to New York because it is "the center of the universe" and "the melting pot" of races. Then, for a year and a half, Asano and Yasuda devoted much time to preparing for there American debut.
On April 23, 2011, Ten was invited to “Anime Boston 2011” as a guest. Anime Boston is an annual three-day Japanese animation convention held in Boston, Massachusetts. At that time, they occupied all floors of the Hynes Convention Center and also their attendance hit a new record of 17,236. On July 3, Ten appeared at “j-Summit New York” where they collected donations for the victims of Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011. Ten also earned new fans by taking part in “Steampunk Anachronism III : Vacation to Edo” in NYC on August 21.

Ten's dark and heavy music style consists of the traditional Japanese instrument "koto", bass, drums, and voice. The music is characterized not only by the sound of the traditional koto, but also by the unique blend of sounds produced by the other instruments. All music and lyrics are written by Asano. All koto parts are composed on Asano’s 7-string electric guitar. Yasuda adapts the “guitar part” into the way the koto should sound, changing the technique from classical to Ten’s style. Asano also creates the tone color of the koto. Therefore, Yasuda has to operate multi-effect pedals and various compact effects pedals with her feet in addition to the conventional koto technique.
The lyrics are focused on Asano's peculiar Japanese subliminal emotions and enthusiasm. Asano wants to share Ten's world with people all over the world by singing in English, not in Japanese.

About the koto
The koto is a traditional Japanese stringed instrument. This wooden (Paulownia) instrument is about 180 cm long and has 13 strings which are strung over 13 movable bridges along the length of the instrument. Players use three finger picks (on the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger) to pluck the strings, and the pitches can be adjusted by moving these bridges before playing. The koto is made in the image of the dragon. The parts of a koto are called Dragon-head, Dragon-tail and Dragon-tongue.

The 17-string koto (jushichi-gen) was developed by koto master Michio Miyagi (1894-1956). It's considerably larger than a normal koto. It's one octave lower than the koto and it has a deeper sound.