International award-winning rock photographer Eddie Sung ended 2017 on a high, by hanging out with legendary music genius Kitaro. By high, we mean sky-high. He cut short his family vacation in Tokyo to fly back in time for the ever-elegant and sonically-rich Kitaro concert.
Hey Eddie, we heard you ended 2017 with a fantastic out-of-this-world concert. What draws you to a Kitaro concert?
Out-of-this-world is correct! A Kitaro concert is always a visual/sonic extravaganza. I’m friends with him, so the concert was an intimate catch-up for me too.
In fact, I had already booked a flight to Tokyo for a holiday with my family. When I found out about the concert, I promptly cut short my stay by two days to be back in time for the concert.
Ironically and coincidentally, on the day of the concert, I met two “Kits”. The national music treasure Kit Chan during a splendid lunch hosted by a toy tycoon at his Flabslab empire.
And Kitaro himself two hours later, during his soundcheck.
It is always great when the artist knows your photography over the years. It is even better if he has featured your works on his album artwork, official websites, and concert advertisement materials. I presume he trusted me to deliver the visual goods and allows me get on with it, without being accosted by anyone.
Every Kitaro concert is different. What is the theme for this current tour?
Kitaro’s “KOJIKI & the Universe” Live Tour will feature time-lapse dynamic space-age images from NASA and Kyoto University, magically blended with Kitaro’s magical music.
How close are you to Kitaro?
This is my third time shooting a Kitaro concert. Although shooting the concert is great, I treasure our time spent backstage, chilling and hanging out before the concert.
I know the concert organizer Jimmy and Kitaro’s personal manager, Eiichi-san – it was great catching up with them too.
Kitaro and I are also self-respecting photographers. Haha.
We heard you guys have a mutual affection for Canon.
Not many people know this but Kitaro composed an anthem for Canon Japan years ago. Kitaro has been using Canon for the longest time.
We spent time chatting about our different cameras. I own a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and Kitaro has a Canon EOS M2. I shared with him on the merits of the latest Canon cameras. He is a prolific shooter with a great photographic eye.
Hey, Canon Japan, time to give Kitaro a new camera! Haha.
He showed me the images he has been taking. This guy is not just a musical genius but has a gift for photography as well. His images show up as backdrops for his musical performances.
What’s Kitaro like, up close and personal?
Well, I’ve never seen Kitaro lose his temper.
Kitaro is one of the most humble and coolest people on the earth. Most geniuses are like that, they are encouraging and always positive. In general, who really wants to be around strivers who are short-fused and ‘think’ they know it all.
I also asked Kitaro about the cover of the Grammy award-winning “Thinking Of You” album where it featured his personal abandoned piano in the snow, that he photographed himself. I simply love the idyllic cover.
I’m proud that my impromptu soundcheck portrait of him is featured in the album artwork.
Since a young lad, Kitaro is my hero. In 1984 he was refused entry for a concert performance, by the Singapore authorities in Singapore for his long hair. Then rather than cutting it, he left the country. Now, he simply laughs it off. He still has his elegant long hair until today!
Did you manage to get any great shots?
Yes, I usually capture the intimate shots I wanted during the soundcheck.
I always try to capture a quintessential Kitaro portrait during the soundcheck. I showed him the image above and he approved it.
I always shoot for myself, and not for promoters. I do give some of my images to them as my gratitude for allowing me to shoot at the concert.
Armed with my concert pass, I could even photograph on stage.
Oh yes, Kitaro even used my previous Zen image of him for his KOJIKI & The Universe concert tour promotional materials and concert passes. I duly got him to sign my concert pass for me.
Kitaro is meticulous about his music and stage sound. He has precise briefings with his talented band and trusted crew. The briefings are always done in a fun, animated and respectful manner.
As seen from the image above, Kitaro is knowledgeable about the history and properties of this particular vintage drum!
The promoter kindly reserved a centre seat in the front row for me to enjoy the show and shooting leisurely, only at the poignant and zen moments.
I never sign concert paper release papers, where I have to ask permission from the artist about where I put my images.
I can understand that they wish to protect their hard-earned image. I will always shoot poignant, positive images of rock stars. Mostly in B/W.
In this instance, I try to capture the Zen essence of the elegant and graceful Kojiki dancer.
Slowly, the Kojiki dancer unmasked and the true identity of the mysterious dancer is revealed.
It is always great to have a bond with the dancer. It was helpful to have a casual meal with the band and crew.
I love this image where the dancer throws her arms up over Kitaro in the distance.
The band bows after an exhilarating performance that left the audience spellbound and yearning for more. Till next time when Kitaro comes to town!
It is always nice when Kitaro posts some of my beloved images onto his official Facebook page!
I want to start the hard-working Dog year on an upbeat note. Have a safe and fun-filled 2018! Rock On!
To check out Eddie Sung’s images of rock music legends, please visit his website at www.eddie-sung.com