CAIRO – 6 November 2019: The residence of the Japanese Ambassador in Cairo hosted Tuesday night a small concert by Japanese violinist Elisa Kawaguti and Belgian guitarist Yves Storms, who gave a breathtaking performance that stunned the audience.
Harmony between Kawaguti and Storms was clear, taking the audience on a brief trip to different countries as they shift from one piece to another. A number of ambassadors, officials at foreign embassies in Cairo and musicians at the Opera House attended the concert.
Japanese Violinist Elisa Kawaguti - Photo via Luca School of Arts
The performance came a day after the two artists' participation in the second edition of the Manial Palace Festival at the Golden Hall of Prince Mohamed Ali Palace, in response to an invitation by the the Embassy of Belgium in Cairo.
Though she came to Egypt several times before, Kawaguti said this visit sees her first official performance in Cairo. Being a music educator and a professor of violin herself, Kawaguti gave a masterclass to students in Cairo.
Japanese violinist Elisa Kawaguti with Egypt Today's reporter Nourhan Magdi
Egypt Today sat with Kawaguti to know more about her profession, and how she became the international musician she is today. She also opens up about her love of roaming the world, and how she found Egyptian food.
Born and graduated at university in Japan, Kawaguti moved to Belgium to participate in one of the biggest competitions, the 1985 Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels, where she became a laureate.
She decided to stay in Belgium because she liked it very much, adding that she loved its food, its special shrimps, the coast view and the very old style of fish boats. Belgians, she said, did not have language barrier issues, as they spoke English and French, which helped her to engage with the people. When she finished studying at the conservatoire in Belgium, she started teaching.
About her visit to Egypt, Kawaguti said, “It was my dream to come to Egypt because when I was a child, I wanted to be a kind of archaeologist; I was always reading about Egyptian history.”
Kawaguti added that in her previous visits to Egypt, she saw the Pyramids, Saqqara, museums, but this time her schedule is very busy; she manages to keep a diary about what she sees in the country to tell her friends about it. As she tried different cuisines, Kawaguti expressed her delight with trying Egyptian food, saying she liked everything she ate in the country, especially humus, aubergine, and Egyptian bread.
Kawaguti started to play the violin when she was 5 years old. “We have a kind of education system [in Japan] that we have to learn everything, but specifically, I continued with the violin and the piano, and singing also,” she explained.
Explaining how music can break language barriers and bridge cultures, Kawaguti said, “With music, we can always communicate with people, and there is a kind of human feelings... I forget I am Japanese, and I forget where I am.” She traveled to many countries over the course of her career, where she visited Congo, Mexico, Ecuador, Poland and Israel among others.
Japanese violinist Elisa Kawaguti during interview with Egypt Today - Photo by Nourhan Magdi/Egypt Today
Experiencing different music from Egypt was one takeaway from Kawaguti’s visit to the country, as she was giving a masterclass at the conservatoire in Cairo, she met with young musicians aged between 8-16 years old and gave them advice on their career. “I had a very good experience, and I was impressed by their high level of performance, engagement and technical talent.”
“Again I want to say that in music, there is no difference between boys and girls, or nationalities, we are all the same in music…I was really touched by them [students], and I hope I can visit them again,” she added.
Answering a question about the role music can play in speaking against violence, Kawaguti cited musical ensembles who were present during World War II at the concentration camps, which enslaved, starved, tortured and killed people. “Music can save… the musicians were there and they wanted to do something, and they survived despite being hungry, because of the passion they held as human beings and expressed in music.”
Manial Palace Festival participants - ET.
Kawaguti also said she is open to any future cooperation with eastern musicians, especially Egyptians, to create this kind of unique fusion between two different cultures. “Japanese music is totally different in intonation and instruments, but some Japanese composers try to mix traditional the Japanese way with other music.”
Asking her how many hours she used to train to be able to give such charming performance, she said she started with 8 hours; “it was hard but very organized, so I never regretted this time.”
She also spoke about the key role parents should play with their talented children to support them and keep them committed.