About Komuso

Share the joy

Who is Komuso Tokugawa?

Komuso is my online musician virtual alter ego (or Avatar), born in SecondLife in 2005 where I was one of the first musicians to start performing live music streaming to virtual audiences.

Real music for a virtual world is a great article from 2009 that explains a little about this virtual world music scene.

Live Music has long been the “Killer App” of the SecondLife online social experience, acting as the glue that binds people to come together for shared experiences.
I’ve produced and performed at 1000+ events in SL and have learned a lot over this time in areas as varied as:

  • Virtual event production
  • Virtual set production
  • Platform evaluation
  • Technology strategy
  • Streaming Audio and Video
  • Virtual platform economics
  • Virtual event management
  • Avatar design

Read more at Project – Online Live Music

Where did the name come from?

When you registered for SecondLife they gave you a list of last names to choose from, but you could choose your own first name. At the time I was learning Shakuhachi,  a traditional end blown Japanese Bamboo flute played by Zen monks known as Komuso, so I chose Komuso as my first name as it resonated with a few things I was working on. The Komuso had an interesting history during the period of the Tokugawa Shogunate so Tokugawa seemed like a good choice as a last name.

I designed a custom avatar to represent Komuso in the virtual world, kind of a voodoo shaman cyborg hybrid I call “Komuso the BluesBorg”.

What instruments do I play?

I sing and play slide guitar mainly (with a dose of finger style and pick), Harmonica (mainly in a rack), Shakuhachi, and electronics of different types and control interfaces. My main guitar is a Hohner G3T headless (since ~1991), and I play mainly Suzuki Manji & Lee Oskar Harps.

I also developed a dynamically controlled AI rhythm section as backing for playing online:

What styles of music do I play?

“The blues is the human condition, Blues is life or truth as has been said, and encompasses the whole spectrum of human emotion from despair to joy.”

I’m very much grounded in traditional acoustic and electric blues, but I’m also deeply invested in other world music traditions that reflect the human condition that blues music embodies.

I’ve busked in Europe, UK, Alice Springs and played in a few bands from Oslo to Tokyo. My favorite memories are when I spent nearly a year busking on Las Ramblas in Barcelona in ’91. The ever changing Bottleneck Blues band in Tokyo was a lot of fun too.

Bottleneck Blues Band 1995, The Fiddler, Takadanobaba, Tokyo
Bottleneck Blues Band 1995, The Fiddler, Takadanobaba, Tokyo
Bottleneck Blues Band 2016, What The Dickens, Ebisu, Tokyo
Bottleneck Blues Band 2016, What The Dickens, Ebisu, Tokyo

Blues itself is quite a broad tradition, but as a slide/harmonica player/singer I’m particularly attracted to the styles of:

Slide Guitar

Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and others from the Delta blues

Hound Dog Taylor and others from the dirty Chicago blues

Junior Kimbrough, R.L.Burnside and others from the Mississippi Hill Country Trance Blues

Ry Cooder, David Lindley etc from modern slide guitar

Many other fine players across different cultures


Too many fine players to mention, across many styles of blues, roots, world, and modern music.

My world music tastes span Reggae, Gypsy, Fado, Soukos, West African griot styles, Middle Eastern, indie alt rock to ambient trance electronica. I’ve even “invented” some new hybrid genres such as as Bluestronica, Grunge Blues, and Reggae Blues to describe some of these musical experiments.

If I had to describe it in a short sentence I’d say it’s all about Groove, Tone, and Story.
(even instrumentals can tell you a story…)

One of my fans wrote this about me which I think describes my style best:
“Komuso Tokugawa’s approach to the blues is unique. The rough-around-the-edges sound is often described as ‘dirty’, ‘grungy’ or ‘alternative’. Highly experimental, Komuso takes influences from world music and wraps them around the emotionally charged blues core to create his sound.”

Another fan’s view:
Komuso plays the blues the way it oughta be played, with an edge and a throatiness that tells its own tales.

Music Technology Research and Development

I’m deeply interested in music technology and new music genres across all boundaries.

Generative music is an interesting area that I’ve done a lot of research in, and you can read more about some of that here: http://www.sonicviz.com/wp/project/generative-music-system/

I’ve spent a few years virtually busking in virtual worlds like SecondLife playing solo (with and without my robot backing band) and also real time music jamming with multiple musicians located in different countries.

I’ve given some talks and performances about live music in SecondLife:

Mixed Reality Komuso On The Future of Music Online

SynaesthAsia: Dynamic, Live Music/Visual Spectacular from Musicians in Two Countries

Here’s another video demonstrating live networked music performance between myself in Tokyo and fellow SL musician Hathead Rickenbacker in Toronto, Canada.

I’m also a producer/developer of educational apps , including the benchmark Harmonica training app HarpNinja.

I completed a Music Masters degree in 2002 focused on Real Electronic Virtual instrument design and performance (see also http://www.linseypollak.com/past-projects/rev-real-electronic-virtual/ ). Moozk was an experimental audio visual app I developed for public use using a wacom pen tablet to drive a painting application that also produced generative music as you drew. Kids seemed to love it.

Blue Noise was an experimental audio visual performance using an eBow, slide guitar, digital effects and a PC running audio responsive custom designed graphics.