About Tai Hei Shakuhachi
Tai Hei Shakuhachi are made by Monty H. Levenson who maintains workshops at his homestead in the coastal foothills of Mendocino County, California as well as in Japan at the small farming village of Kitagawa (Tokushima Prefecture) on Shikoku Island. Monty has been making shakuhachi continuously since 1970. The name Tai Hei is derived from "Tai Heiyo Gawa" or "the Pacific Rim." Both Monty and his wife Kayo, an integral part of this family-run enterprise, have their legs firmly planted on either side of the Pacific Ocean.
In 1984, Monty developed the Precision Cast Bore technology, enabling him to create affordable, high-quality jiari shakuhachi made of bamboo. Tai Hei Shakuhachi are being used and endorsed by traditional teachers in Japan for their students and professional musicians worldwide as their own personal instruments. Since its inception, aspects of this innovative new method of making professional grade shakuhachi has been widely emulated by makers throughout the world. In 1992, Monty trained master craftsman Masuda Shuho in the process and helped to retool his workshop in Kawasaki, Japan. This partnership was cut short by Masuda’s untimely passing in 2000.
While self-taught as a maker, Monty Levenson has collaborated extensively with many prominent players and craftsmen around the world to help forge a synthesis of traditional and modern high-tech approaches to shakuhachi making. He works closely with John Kaizan Neptune, one of the most respected musicians and composers in Japan, whose pioneering research into the acoustical physics of the shakuhachi has been incorporated into the precision cast bore and jinashi flutes he makes. Monty has also learned all aspects of selecting, harvesting, and curing hard-to-find madaké bamboo appropriate for shakuhachi from Nakamura Ginetsu, a maker in Osaka for over 50 years, and one of the last remaining craftsmen in Japan harvesting all of his own bamboo. Monty has also teamed up with Roderic Cameron, one of the world’s premiere makers of 19th Century European Baroque woodwinds, to develop technologies related to the replication of historical and modern instruments. These endeavors have resulted in a unique laser tracking lathe, of which there are only two in the world, as well as a computer interface for measuring interior flute bore profiles with the utmost precision.
2002 witnessed a number of breakthroughs at Tai Hei Shakuhachi including the manufacture of jinashi chokan—long, natural-bore instruments, throw backs to the older-style Zen flutes and the Shakulute, a shakuhachi headjoint for the Western silver flute that has become very popular in Japan and around the world.
In 2004, Tai Hei Shakuhachi Publishing was officially launched with the aim of preserving and expanding access to information outside of Japan on shakuhachi craft techniques and the Zen-inspired honkyoku musical tradition. Several books and translations of rare masterworks, collections of sheet music, instructional guides, CDs and DVDs are produced and published at the Tai Hei Shakuhachi off-the-grid workshop in Willits, California.
In 2020, commemorating 50 years as a shakuhachi maker, Monty co-wrote, edited, laid out, and published The Sound of Bamboo Shakuhachi: Blowing Zen & the Spirit of Shakuhachi. This edition incorporates innovative new technology developed in Japan enabling the reader to go from the printed pages of this interactive book directly to the Internet in seconds. It contains over 400 embedded links that include videos, audio files, & websites along with updates to its contents over time.
Despite his long tenure crafting shakuhachi, Monty continues to improve upon and hone all aspects of the instruments he make. Not a day goes by in the workshop when something new or different is attempted. The changes may be minor or major and the results for better or worse. The modus operandi at play is "trial and error—mostly the latter!" or learning from and building upon one's mistakes. The process is fundamentally non-linear. There are no plateaus in crafting a shakuhachi which continues to evolve from the time the instrument entered Japan 1200 years ago.
Tai Hei Shakuhachi Workshops
|The Tai Hei Shakuhachi homestead and flute workshop are completely owner-built and off-the-grid, powered by electricity that is sustainable, clean, and environmentally-friendly. All shakuhachi are made using energy generated on the property via an independent home power system utilizing solar and hydroelectricity.||The Tai Hei Shakuhachi workshop in located in village of Kitagawa
(Tokushima Prefecture) on Shikoku Island is the old
郵便局 Yubinkyoku (Post Office) conveniently located down the street from my in-law's home.
Publications, Articles, & Photo Journals
• Blowing Shakuhachi is an interview with Monty published in the Kyoto Journal.
• Photo journal of my collaboration with master craftsman Masuda Shuho in Japan.
• Japanese National Public TV (NHK) documentary about master player and teacher Bruce Huebner visiting my shakuhachi workshop in California.
• Hogaku Journal article about my use of torachiku (Tiger Bamboo) grown in Tokushima Prefecture to make low-cost, high-quality shakuhachi.
• The Shakulute is a shakuhachi headjoint for the silver flute I came up that has taken on a life of its own.
• Our small-town local newspaper The Willits News published an article about Monty & Kayo's work with shakuhachi.
|Shakuhachi: The Sound of Nature|
|Origins & History of the Shakuhachi|
|Bamboo Used for Shakuhachi|
|Precision Cast Bore Technology|
Professional Root-End Shakuhachi
Jinashi - Natural Bore Flutes
Advanced Student Level Shakuhachi
Student Level Shakuhachi
Shakuhachi Headjoint for the Silver Flute
|How Shakuhachi are Graded|
|Shakuhachi Repair & Restoration|
|Frequently Asked Questions|
Precision Bore Shakuhachi
Jinashi - Natural Bore Shakuhachi
|How to Order|