Korneel-mask-300x225As artists, we dream of playing on big stages in glamorous places for thousands of people.  The reality is that our music can take us to places that we couldn’t possibly imagine.  It is sometimes the most intimate concerts that change not only our listeners lives, but ours as well.  Can you imagine getting the call to play in post-tsunami Fukushima?  That is exactly what happened to ISB member Korneel Le Compte.

“When we were asked if we were prepared to go and play in Fukushima, the decision was relatively easy to make. Only two people, only two opinions to consider. Being aware of the risks is important when considering such requests. The Fukushima situation is far from being under control, and it remains to be seen if it ever will be. I seriously doubt it. Fukushima is a slow motion disaster of such proportions that sooner or later the whole world will suffer its consequences, in spite of the information black-out. So why do we want to go there? After all we’ll be playing for a few hundred people at best. It’s not worth the risk.


When all is said and done, I guess it comes down to gut feeling. Rationally speaking, weighing the pros and cons, one must come to the conclusion that this is a foolish undertaking. On the other hand, life has no sense except the one that we give it. In a way this is, for us, a sense-giving decision. It won’t change or save the world. But it will very certainly change the lives of some of the people there, even if just for a short moment. It will change our lives too. Realizing that what we do is just a drop in the ocean doesn’t have to stop us from doing it.

Not only did he (along with his Duo Sweet 17 partner Haruko Tanabe) go to Fukushima, but they brought a bunch of toys to give away to the children and orphans they performed for. 

Korneel documents their travels to Japan in his blog.  He discusses travel issues, musical preparation, cultural nuances, and the people they meet along the way.  I’m not a huge blog reader, but I have to say that it was incredibly engaging. Even more, I couldn’t shake the images of them driving through the radioactive landscape, taking radiation measurements along the way, and bringing joy to people that are hungry for their gift of music.

“All along the day there’s been an undercurrent, a strange mixture of determined courage and soft despair, from our first meeting with the organizers till tonight’s concert. Something you can’t put your finger on, but that is nonetheless present. We don’t know it yet, but it’s a feeling that won’t leave us for the next few days.


Hotel, bath (is the water safe, I wonder) and sleep. We’re exhausted. It’s been a long day and a long trip, but it’s the emotions that wear us out the most. Driving through ghost towns where people have had to leave their homes and possessions behind at very short notice, measuring those ever rising radiation levels, seeing the radioactive bags. Then two concerts, the monk talking about the disaster, the local people trying to make the best of their situation, those children listening to us and singing along, then singing for us. Trying to take it all in… Heavy stuff to digest.”

Yes, at times it is heavy. It is also important to know what is happening in the world.  Check out Korneel’s Blog.  His Japan blog is broken up into 7 sections, so you’ll be able to pick your reading by the region.  We at ISB salute Korneel and Haruko for their courage and passion in bringing their music to the world and making the world a better place.

Kristin Korb
Your ISB President