Type: Chordophones > Zithers > Long > Fretless.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.4
Region: Far East Asia.
Description: The Azuma nigenkin, often just referred to as the nigenkin, is an extremely rare two-string zither found only in the Asakusa suburb of Tokyo. The development of the nigenkin is fairly recent. As the nigenkin was adapted from the Yakumo-goto; a two-stringed zither used exclusively in Shinto shrines.
History: In the early Meiji Period [1868-1912] Tosha Rosen, a Yakumo-goto player, started to use the instrument to perform the secular popular music of the time [hauta and zokkyoku] and as a result was asked to sever his association with the Shinto Shrine and he was forbidden to play the Yakumo-goto. He therefore created the Azuma nigenkin, with only subtle differences to its predecessor, notably an open back and less ornamentation.
Playing Techniques: The nigenkin is played with the same ivory pick and a large slide called a rokan as its ichigenkin counterpart. The rokan is slid along the strings, which are tuned in unison, to the desired pitch.
As the nigenkin has two bridges on either end of the instrument. The strings on both sides of the rokan sound when it is moved, producing a ghost like secondary tone, which is quite beautiful.
Repertoire: There are 95 original works for Azuma nigenkin mostly composed by the original Tosha Rosen, but the repertoire also includes popular songs from its inception to present. Randy Raine-Reusch has also added works to its repertoire.