Sunday, November 30, 2008

Story of Miu 12

Reading at the Kuraki Noh Theater Dec. 6, 2008
with Yumi Miyagishima on violin, playing "Sleep" by Kyosuke Koizumi and Winchester Nii Tete on kpanlogo percussion.

Story of Miu 11 including links to previous entries.

I'm sitting in a stuffy waiting room, not bothering to wonder why the others _ troubled looking women of all ages and shapes _ would need to be there.
It is clear birth is not the reason we are all here, even the nurses in pale pink outfits and the feminist gynecologist with the stern voice.
I am too nervous and worried to feel shame or guilt.
I just want Miu to come out from behind the curtains where she has gone _ safe and alive and in one piece and the job done.
This is not a good feeling.
But this is all I can think.
We have all been there _ our legs open _ to remind us of what we did, not with just anyone but a man we truly loved but maybe who didn't love us enough _ the chilly metal enters like an uncutting but unfeeling knife, merciless, guiltless, sinless until our drugged minds leave us _ start counting: one, two, three, four _ like angels who have given up.
And we feel nothing and we remember nothing.
We do not think of the baby that was, that could have been, that never was.
It is a tiny wormlike thing that must be removed like a bloody tumor because it is not a human being yet.
And I only want her to come out of there from behind the sterile curtains, safe and healthy and smiling.
I know she doesn't want to part with this human being that never was.
She wanted it to go on and on, feeling that person inside of her.
"It's not something to do immediately; that's not right," she says. She has waited a week alone. She has not told anyone.
I don't realize this: All I am thinking about is her, not the thing that is inside of her.
But the baby who never was is that grandchild who never was, the future of the race, generations to come, who looks like your grandfather, your father, your son, the man you love, those little feet that run to you and bring snotty cheek against cheek, filled with life when you are only nearing death.
When she finally comes out of her drugged sleep, walks courageously to me in the waiting room, faking a smile, her breath smells like an old woman.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Taiko lessons

Isaku Kageyama, who has studied with Tokyo's top taiko group Amanojaku since he was 6, is offering taiko drumming lessons in English.
The first lesson is FREE OF CHARGE so if you are an English speaker, or someone who wants to learn English and taiko at the same time:

December 2, 2008 from 19:00 – 20:30 at Igusa Kumin Center TEL: 03-3398-9125
(5-7-22 Shimo Igusa Suginami-ku Tokyo 167-0022)
December 11, 2008 from 19:00 – 20:30 at Takaido Kumin Center TEL: 03-3331-7841
(3-7-5 Takaido Higashi Suginami-ku Tokyo 168-0072)
January 20, 2009 from 19:00-20:30 at Eifuku Izumi Kumin Center TEL: 03-5300-9411
(3-8-18 Izumi Suginami-ku Tokyo 168-0063)
January 27, 2009 Tuesday 19:00-20:30 at Takaido Kumin Center TEL: 03-3331-7841
(3-7-5 Takaido Higashi Suginami-ku Tokyo 168-0072)

Fees: NO CHARGE for your first visit. 8,000 yen for 2 lessons a month or 4,000 yen a month with student ID).

For more information, call Isaku at 090-8506-9885

Amanojaku is led by Yoichi Watanabe, Hiromi Ogawa and Mayumi Kawana.
Amanojaku's forte is Watanabe's superb compositions that blend elements of modern music with the roots of Tokyo-style festival music.
No other taiko group in the world boasts such strong original compositions, which are narratives of Watanabe's creative vision that is constantly evolving.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Noh Theater Stages Percussion and Poetry

Winchester Nii Tete and I are at a tiny Tokyo cafe in this photo.
On SAT. Dec. 6, we take centerstage at a Noh Theater in Yokohama called Kuraki.
The organizers wanted "something different" _ and so they got US!
Violinist Yumi Miyagishima, Keiji Kubo on didgeridoo, filmmaker Yoshiaki Tago, Tago's cameraman Terada, Ghana singer Robby and photographer Ryan Bruss will join us.
I must confess it feels good to read in artistic spaces (as opposed to smoke-filled dives).
Many, many years ago, I read among Isamu Noguchi sculpture pieces at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
As far as arty spots to read in, it's hard to top that, wouldn't you say _ with his signature "akari" lights and well-like pits he created with textured wood.
I worked with Japanese American artists _ actor Marc Hayashi and jazz saxist Gerald Oshita for that event _ which seems such a long time ago _ but strangely like yesterday.
The memories of those friends are as dear to me as our collaborations.
I have lost touch with many of these people.
If anyone comes across this blog and wants to reconnect _ poets, dancers, musicians, filmmakers _ please leave a comment.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hybrid Soul _ Proof That Taiko Rocks

Eclectic and unexpected, Hybrid Soul (photo by Ryan Bruss) brings together rock 'n' roll with taiko (traditional Japanese percussion) to deliver a modern version of "Bon" (summer festival) folk tunes.
ISAKU KAGEYAMA (center) on taiko; CHRIS YOUNG (right) on guitar and PAT GLYNN (left) on bass.
The group made its debut at Mandala in Minami Aoyama, Tokyo, Nov. 11, 2008. (Another clip.)
Stay tuned for more.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Edo Bayashi Conversations: A Heart-to-Heart Talk Between Japan and Ghana

Winchester Nii Tete, master percussionist from Ghana, joined a fascinating exchange _ quite literally, the talking drum _ with Japanese taiko by Daisuke Watanabe and my son Isaku Kageyama at Buddy in Tokyo Nov. 14, 2008.
It was still the first performance for the trio _ Edo Bayashi Conversations _ but that made it so fresh, totally titillating and fearlessly provocative.
How taiko rhythms sound juxtaposed with African rhythms is like savoring neo-cuisine gourmet _ the blend of the unexpected that's utterly delightful.
The more these young musicians learn from each other and apply the lessons to their own genre, the more wonderful the Music can be that springs from this disarming group.
Just seeing how well they play together _ and so naturally _ gives listeners a good feeling _ maybe even hope for world peace, if that's not saying too much.
The three young men have so much in common, although they are from different nationalities and musical backgrounds.
They share the same challenges of making their own the tradition of their musical legacy.
They also share the mission of trying to surpass the masters who came before them to add their own mark on that legacy.
It's a wonderful idea that the men from Ghana, Japanese and Japanese-American backgrounds may hope to help each other achieve those goals.
Musicianship is not about competing with other players, Winchester says with a far wiser look than his 20-some years might be expected to bring in his eyes.
Music is about giving your 100 percent to make listeners happy.
Too many musicians make the mistake of seeing a stage as a place for proving you're better than someone else _ when no one really cares about that.
And so if you play your heart out, the rest will take care of itself.

Other Music in Tokyo 2

British singer Kevin Gray has a very gentle, unpretentious and nice-guy voice that's the kind of person he is himself.
He had a party for his new CD "Shipwrecked" in Tokyo Nov. 9, 2008.
I won two bottles of Australian wine, courtesy of the embassy, with a raffle ticket.

Other Music in Tokyo

American singer Tiffany appears at an opening party for a photo exhibit by Hozumi Nakadaira at Art cafe in Tokyo, Oct. 6.
Her voice is at times sparkling like crystal, sometimes sultry like velvet --- wow, what cliches. Hey, what they say about great jazz voices happens to be true.
Tiffany has that voice, and all the nice techniques to match, which go to show that great jazz is live and well in Tokyo _ of all places.
It was the perfect place to hear a voice like hers _ surrounded by the gorgeous black-and-white prints of jazz giants like John Coltrane, Theolonius Monk and Miles Davis.
Nakadaira says digital photos aren't real photos.
For one, they are just coding and are apt to even vanish _ like a glitch or virus, if you don't watch out.
Photos _ the kind that are painstakingly, lovingly printed in dark rooms _ they are real.
Like art works, they may fade but they last an eternity, he tells me, noting he still has rolls and rolls of film of concerts he can barely remember the dates and places of, although, of course, he remembers the Music, note for note, almost, maybe not quite, but ringing years after the musicians have died, in his ears, in his photos.

From Yuri To Yuri: A Contemporary Renku Poem

From Yuri To Yuri: Japanese Womanhood Across Borders of Time
A Contemporary Renku Poem (A Work in Progress).
By Yuri Matsueda and Yuri Kageyama
Read at What the Dickens in Tokyo Oct. 5, 2008.





pale hands folded over silken robes
music tangled like wind among pine trees
she waits, waits, waits for her daimyo lover

i can’t love a man i can’t respect
i fall for men who’re no good for me
i won’t love a man who might destroy me

her breasts grow fuller with each breath
she knows he will return in the darkness
her tongue is dry and sallow

i can’t resist a man who means danger
his cocky sneer, his sword, his dreams,
his probing lips and fingertips







the path of time of generations of memories of ignorance

all the forgotten women
all the forgotten lovers
all the forgotten babies

past Shibuya cobblestones of footprints of dreams of death

fading love hotels
gleaming boutiques
salesmen passing tissue to no one

faceless voices blend with sirens and cicadas

overheard giggles
sheer wisps of thoughts
too lazy to speak the truth or lies

at dusk




dot and line, dot and line
like marching ants spilling
from score sheets to table to equator to nightmares
black notations of silent thoughts of music
muted ramblings of an obscure composer
puttering notes only he and i can hear
fragments of jazz rhythms
broken crazed despised

did you know Ingmar Bergman was terrified of death
but as he grew older, as he approached that dreadful moment,
he was no longer afraid

did you know life is forever
when death comes
there will be no life to feel

i was lost when i was your age
you will help me find myself
at your age
with this poem

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Taiko Rocks With Hybrid Soul _ Live Version

Hybrid Soul delivers electric "Souran Bushi" _ Dokkoi dokkoi!!
Hybrid Soul brings together:
ISAKU KAGEYAMA, an award-winning traditional Japanese taiko drummer from Tokyo, Texan guitarist CHRIS YOUNG and
PAT GLYNN, an accomplished Broadway musician hailing from the wilds of New Jersey.
Three different perspectives but one common vision.
By experimenting with Western rock, jazz, blues and latin elements, Hybrid Soul breathes new life into the culturally and musically rich tradition of Japanese folk songs.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Taiko Rocks with Hybrid Soul

Hybrid Soul made its debut Tuesday Nov. 11, 2008, at Minami Aoyama Mandala in Tokyo _ bringing together the rock guitar of Chris Young and bass of Pat Glynn with the taiko beat of my son Isaku Kageyama.
They played Bon songs of Japanese traditional minyo folk music _ Soran bushi, Yagi bushi, Tanko bush, etc. (The top is a studio recording _ not from the concert _ but gives you a bit of an idea of what's cooking.)
The evening was an eye-opener in showing how the songs sounded different when played in that context _ but also how freshly and genuinely good they sounded _ simply as tunes.
Japanese tend to tune out with these old songs, heard over and over again, and associated with old people and old times _ songs that blend into oblivion.
But rearranged and electrified as "gaijin" rock, they suddenly commanded attention.
And one realizes how well crafted they are and how beautiful they are as pieces of modern music.
Juxtaposition/hybrids/marginality do tend to have a convenient knack for highlighting what gets otherwise overlooked.
This may sound like a contradiciton.
But in being non-Japanese did Bon songs turn Japanese!
It's great.
The band got a grand reception at Mandala _ pretty good for a first performance.
We hope there will be more performances ahead to hear new takes, new ideas, new solos.
One of the teachers suggested maybe one tune could have had Isaku on bells in "a battle" against the guitar and bass.
The club owner suggested filling out the program with more straight-ahead taiko, including a trademark o-daiko (giant drum) performance.
I thought they could use minyo calls like "oi oi," "sore sore" (or whatever they are) as a very easy way to get the crowd roused up in the obligatory audience-participation shtick of live-house concerts.
Maybe guest soloists and singers will join the group in future concerts.
Ideas abound.
The performance felt really short _ we wanted more.
Isaku grew up hearing the electric guitar of his father, who worships Jimi Hendrix as well as studied Wes Montgomery, Larry Carlton, Pat Metheny, Larry Coryell and other greats.
And so it was probably a natural choice for him to bring together that childhood sound _ still ringing somewhere in his subconscious _ with the beat of taiko, which is his life.
It was moving to see that as parents.
It was also a lesson _ as all parental experiences tend to be.
It was a reminder that all we can hope for in our art is to be ourselves.
And that is, after all, the sole purpose of art.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Poetry and Percussion on the Noh Stage

Winchester Nii Tete and I will be at the Kuraki Noh Theater _ a beautiful place that's been the stage for Japanese National Treasures.
SAT Dec. 6, 2008. 7:30 p.m.
Click here for directions on how to get there.
We may seem so different at first glance but I feel that we are one and we share so much.
Our statement is unique and shows we can all come together in self-expression and understanding in music, literature, truth and integrity.
You have to hear his music live to feel the tones and the depth of the sound that spans back generations from Ghana.
I don't want to get carried away and call it a Miracle.
But it's special that his African Sound will be on a Noh Stage of all places with my Japanese/American Word.

YURI KAGEYAMA's poetry and short fiction have appeared in “Y’Bird,” “Greenfield Review,” "San Francisco Stories," "On a Bed of Rice," "Breaking Silence: an Anthology of Asian American Poets," "Other Side River," "Yellow Silk," "Stories We Hold Secret," "MultiAmerica" and many other literary publications. She has read with Ishmael Reed, Shuntaro Tanikawa, Geraldine Kudaka, Victor Hernandez Cruz, Russel Baba, Seamus Heaney, Yumi Miyagishima and many other artists. Her short story “The Father and the Son” will be in a January 2009 anthology, “POWWOW: 63 Writers Address the Fault Lines in the American Experience,” edited by Reed with Carla Blank. She has a book of poems “Peeling” (I. Reed Press). She is working on a movie of her readings with Japanese director Yoshiaki Tago. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Cornell University and holds an M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Master percussionist Winchester Nii Tete hails from the honorable Addy-Amo-Boye families of drummers in Ghana. He is the absolute performer delivering a finely textured repertoire of songs and dance centered around exuberant traditional rhythms that are a true testament of technical finesse and sensitive expressiveness. He has performed with the Ghana national troupe, Sachi Hayasaka, Isaku Kageyama, Yoshio Harada, Takasitar, Naoki Kubojima, Tsuyoshi Furuhashi and many other artists. He has played in various genres, including jazz, hip-hop, reggae, pop and world music. Accomplished on the kplango, talking drum and many other instruments of Ghana, he is a brilliant young star who is certain to follow in the footsteps of his legendary uncles Obo Addy and Aja Addy in gaining international acclaim. He has a CD of his music "BAA JO."