Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Isaku Kageyama's taiko rock group Hybrid Soul

Isaku Kageyama on taiko drums.
Chris Young on guitar.
Pat Glynn on bass.

FRIDAY, MAY 15, 2009
Ekoda Buddy
doors open 8 p.m. and music starts 8:30 p.m.
Futaba Kaikan B2F
1-77-8 Asahigaoka Nerima-ku Tokyo
3,000 yen (includes one drink)
right by Ekoda station on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line.

Shinjuku Takanoya
doors open 8 p.m.; set starts 8:30 p.m.
3,000 yen (including one drink)

ISAKU KAGEYAMA is one of the principal drummers of premiere taiko ensemble Amanojaku. One of the finest players of his generation, Isaku became the youngest player to win Highest Honors at the Mt. Fuji Odaiko Contest, and became two-time National Odaiko Chmpaion in 2003.
CHRIS YOUNG began electrifying the stages of Texas, Florida and New York as a professional guitarist at age 16. Chris has made national tours, recordings and performances with artists such as Wynton Marsalis, Joe Lovano, Shirley Bassey, Angie Stone, Richard Bona and Sadao Watanabe.
A multi-talented and extremely verstaile musician, PAT GLYNN has played a variety of musical styles such as jazz, Broadway, rock, electronic and Latin. His professional peforming experience includes the Walt Disneyworld Orchestra, as well as national and international Broadway tours. Since moving to Tokyo in 2007, he has continued performing in a variety of groups, backing up performers such as Konishiki, Iwasaki Yoshimi and Simon Cosgrove.
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.

Reading at the Bowery Poetry Club

At the Bowery Poetry Club in New York, April 19, 2009.
Poetry by Yuri Kageyama.
Drums by Eric Kamau Gravatt.
Guitar by Teruyuki Kawabata.
Voice/percussions by Haruna Kawabata.
A celebration hosted by Ishmael Reed for the publication of "Pow-Wow: Charting the Fault Lines in the American Experience _ Short Fiction from Then to Now." Da Capo Press, 2009.

Little YELLOW Slut

You know her:
That Little YELLOW Slut, proudly gleefully
YELLOW-ly hanging on Big Master's arm,
War bride, geisha,
GI's home away from home,
Whore for last samurai,
Hula dancer with seaweed hair,
Yoko Ohno,
Akihabara cafe maid,
Hi-Hi Puffy Ami/Yumi,
Kawaiiii like keitai,
Back-up dancer for Gwen Stefani,
Your real-life Second Life avatar
Eager to deliver your freakiest fetish fantasies,
Disco queen, skirt up the crotch,
Fish-net stockings, bow-legged, anorexic, raisin nipples, tip-toeing Roppongi on
Stiletto heels.

Yessu, i spikku ingrishhu, i raikku gaijeeen, they kiss you,
hold your hand, open doors for me,
open legs for you, giggling pidgin, covering mouth,
so happy to be
Little YELLOW Slut.

Everybody's seen her:
That Little YELLOW Slut, waiting at
Home, cooking rice, the Japanese
Condoleezza Rice,
Smelling of sushi,
Breath and vagina,
Fish and vinegar,
Fermented rice,
Honored to be
Cleaning lady,
Flight attendant for Singapore Airlines,
Charlie Chan's Angel,
Nurse maid, gardener, Japan-expert's wife,
Mochi manga face,
Yodeling minyo, growling enka,
Sex toy, slant-eyes closed, licking, tasting, swallowing STD semen,
Every drop.

Yessu, i wanna baby who looohkuh gaijeen, double-fold eye, translucent skin, international school PTA,
maybe grow up to be fashion model, even joshi-ana,
not-not-not happy to be
Little YELLOW Slut.

I recognize her:
That Little YELLOW Slut, rejecting
Japanese, rejected by Japanese,
Empty inside,
They all look alike,
Faceless, hoping to forget, escape
To America,
Slant-eyed clitoris,
Adopted orphan,
Dream come true for pedophiles,
Serving sake, pouring tea, spilling honey,
Naturalized citizen,
Buying Gucci,
Docile doll,
Rag-doll, Miss Universe, manic harakiri depressive, rape victim, she is
You, she is me.

Hai, hai, eigo wakarimasen, worship Big Master for mind, matter, muscle, money, body size correlates to penis size,
waiting to be sexually harassed, so sorry, so many,
so sad to be
Little YELLOW Slut.


Loving Younger Men

Only the bodies of young men aroused her;
the pure innocence in their wide dark eyes,
the wild still animal strength in their muscles,
the smoothness of their skin, so shiny, stretched
out over their boy-like shoulders, flat stomachs,
abdominals rippling gently, their thick thighs
that could thrust forever into the night, their
soft moist lips, where their tonges, so delicious,
dwelt, which darted against, into her vagina,
making her moan with joy, forgetting everything,
which felt so strong against her own tongue at one
moment, yet another, seemed to melt like caramel
in the back of her throat,
their dry fingers, that touched her in the most
unexpected and expecting spots,
their penises, half-covered by their black curls,
seemed smaller, less developed, less threatening,
yet as their shoulders strangely widened
when they held her, their penises filled her,
pointed against her deepest uterine insides,
hurting her with a pleasurable pain, as though
she could sense with her hand, their movements
from outside her belly. Her father beat her as a girl.
She ran from him, crying, please don't hit me! please
don't hit me! No, rather she stood defiant, silent,
silent tears drunk down her chest, till he, in anger
or fear,
slapped her again and again, once so hard she was
swung across the room, once on her left ear so
that she could not hear for three weeks. She
frequented bars, searching for young men who desired
her. She sat alone drinking. She preferred
the pretty effeminate types _ perfectly featured,
a Michelangelo creation, island faces with coral eyes,
faces of unknown tribal child-princes. To escape
her family, she eloped at sixteen, with an alchoholic.
who tortured her every night, binding her with ropes,
sticking his penis into her mouth until she choked,
hitting her face into bruises, kicking her in
the stomach, aborting her child, his child.
The young boys' heads, she would hold, after orgasm,
rocking them in her arms. She would kiss the side of their
tanned necks, breathe in the ocean scent of their hair,
lick their ear lobes and inside their ears. When they
fell asleep, sprawled like a puppy upon her sheets,
their mouths open, she would lie awake watching,
watching, watching, admiring their bodies, how so
aesthetically formed, balanced, textured. What
she enjoyed the most was their fondling her breasts,
suckling, massaging the flesh, flicking the tongue
against the nipple, biting, sucking till her nipples
were red-hot for days. She could come just by this,
without penetration.
When she is alone, she cries. In the dark, she reaches
upwards, into the air, grabbing nothing.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Giant Drum

"Tamashii no Hibiki" ("Soul Beat") by taiko master Yoichi Watanabe (right in above photo), leader of Amanojaku, is a truly beautiful "odaiko" (big taiko) piece.
It is storytelling in percussion _ the talking drum _ at its height Japanese-style.
The video (in the link below) shows how my son Isaku Kageyama played it as a guest at the Tokyo International Taiko Contest.
He won a couple of contests himself with this piece, starting with the 2000 Mount Fuji contest when he became the youngest player at 18 to ever win the honors.
Please go to the site below, scroll down and download "Soul Beat."
It takes a while but I think it's worth the wait.
Video, though, never quite does taiko justice because of the physical sensation of taiko that goes beyond just hearing it _ imagine the walls, your blood veins, the insides of your brain and all the spaces of air around you shaking.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Back Alley Asian American Love Story, of Sorts

A film by Niccolo Caldararo of one of my short stories, starring Bernadette Cha and Norman Toy.
This work was shown at the San Francisco and New York Asian American film festivals and won awards at the 1986 Palo Alto Film Festival, 1987 Ann Arbor Film Festival and 1988 Onion City Film Festival.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Eric Kamau Gravatt

At the Bowery Poetry Club in New York SUN April 19, in celebration of "Pow-Wow: Charting the Fault Lines of the American Experience _ Short Fiction from Then to Now," an anthology compiled and edited by ISHMAEL REED with CARLA BLANK,

YURI KAGEYAMA has a book of poems "Peeling" (I. Reed Press). Her works are in many literary anthologies _ "Y'Bird," "Pow Wow," "San Francisco Stories," "On a Bed of Rice," "Breaking Silence: an Anthology of Asian American Poets," "Greenfield Review," "Beyond Rice," "River Styx," "Other Side River," "Yellow Silk," "Stories We Hold Secret," "MultiAmerica," "Obras." She has read with Ishmael Reed, Shuntaro Tanikawa, Geraldine Kudaka, Victor Hernandez Cruz, Russel Baba, Seamus Heaney, Shozu Ben, Al Robles, Winchester Nii Tete, Keiji Kubo, Yumi Miyagishima. Her son Isaku Kageyama is a "taiko" drummer in Amanojaku in Tokyo. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Cornell University, and has an M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley.

ERIC KAMAU GRAVATT has played with Freddie Hubbard, Albert Ayler, The District of Columbia Youth Symphony, Roberta Flack, Horiuchi Makoto, Sonny Fortune, Jackie McLean, Charles Mingus, Donald Byrd, Carlos Valdez, Booker Irvin, Woody Shaw, Kenny Dorham, Blue Mitchell, Hank Mobley, Kikuchi Masabumi, The Milwaukee Symphony, Jimmy Heath, Donny Hathaway, Sam Rivers, Khalid Yasin, Andrew White, Tony Hymas, Paquito D'Rivera, George Mraz, Ravi Coltrane, Stanley Clarke, Pharoah Saunders, The McCoy Tyner Big Band, Gary Bartz, Bobby Hutcherson, James Carter, Terrance Blanchard, Wallace Roney, Donald Harrison, Charnett Moffett. He tours with his own band Source Code and with McCoy Tyner. Wayne Shorter calls him "The Weather Report drummer who was the all-around hippest one."

TERUYUKI and HARUNA KAWABATA are on their honeymoon. Their band Cigarette She Was performs at the numerous "live houses" in Tokyo. Their hippie-like music scene is part of what inspired YURI to write her story in "Pow-Wow" _ "The Father and the Son." They have been performing poetry together with other Tokyo musicians, including Winchester Nii Tete, a percussionist from Ghana, under YURI's project called The Tokyo Flower Children. Haruna fell in love with not only Teru but also the kpanlogo, a drum from Ghana, during college. The couple also work on films, CDs and posters, and are often featured in art festivals in Japan. Teru also makes cell-phone music downloads, and Haruna works at a major Japanese coffee-shop chain.

Toshinori Kondo

"Oh, my Buddha!" was what Toshinori Kondo kept saying.
That was back in the 1980s, when he was in his IMA band stage, fresh from his return from New York, where he had built his fame, and now out to forge his own Japanese jazz sound.
Instead of looking to the West (as in "Oh, my God!"), a musician must look to his/her Asian roots (and start saying, "Oh, my Buddha!" instead).
He was one of the most fascinating people I have ever interviewed.
Maybe he felt sorry for me that our interview was about to end, and I could have been in his presence forever.
He began to clown around and disappeared into the narrow crevice between the wall and a soda vending machine.
"Oh, my Buddha!"
I don't know why, but this was terribly and perfectly charming.
In his recent book "Inochi wa Sokkyo da (Life Is Improvisation)," Kondo says he studied the lives of Buddhist monks and spiritual leaders when he was younger to find out for himself what made Japanese and Japanese thinking great.
Otherwise, he couldn't feel confident that, as a Japanese artist, he would have something unique or competitive to say in the world of jazz, dominated by Americans.
The Buddhists all led pretty wild and crazy lives, it turns out, fasting, becoming hermits, wandering penniless, chanting in a frenzy.
Best of all, they had a unique view on the meaning of life and spirituality, which remains key to Kondo's approach to music today.
Kondo wasn't satisfied with the Japanese music scene, despite his great success, because it was so insular and it wasn't trying to say anything universal.
He was hectically busy.
But artistically, he felt he was going nowhere fast.
This is when he started living in Amsterdam, partly to get away and collect his thoughts.
In recent years, he began his "Blow the Earth" project, in which he goes to forsaken but gorgeous places like Machu Picchu and Bali and basically plays his heart out.
No one is there to listen.
He feels at one with the Nature around him as though the pulse in the mountain air is beating in time with his blowing, down to the tiniest pulses in every cell of his body.
It is a true high.
This is about getting to the music that is the origin of life.
It is totally divorced from the usual assumptions about music _ how its success is calculated by how many CDs you sell _ about trying to commercially reach hordes.
One time, Kondo travels to Kenya with a Japanese camera crew and wades into a lake filled with flamingos and pelicans.
Be sure to roll the cameras when I start playing, he says. Thousands of birds are going to take flight. And it will be beautiful.
He starts to blow.
But the birds don't take off.
They just start to dance.
Why are young Japanese so worried? Kondo wonders in his book.
And they aren't even worried about what might happen decades from now.
They worry about what might happen next year, tomorrow.
They are so privileged yet they are so afraid.
He was never so afraid.
He kept going for half a century and has never turned back and is still going.
My son plays with this very important Japanese musician WED May 13 at a temple near Mount Fuji.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Suzushi Hanayagi

Suzushi Hanayagi in Robert Wilson's "La Femme à la Cafetière" from 1989.
His homage KOOL with Carla Blank opens at the Guggenheim Museum later this month.

Whence virtuosity

Poet and novelist Ishmael Reed once said he read to an audience two poems _ one by a Nobel laureate and another by one of his students _ and asked for a show of hands to guess which was by whom.
Opinion was 50-50, which goes to show no one can tell on virtuosity.
After all, a toilet seat becomes art supreme if Duchamp puts it in the backdrop of a fancy museum.
Juxtaposing gems from the amateur with stuck up award-winners is a joy.
It challenges status quo definitions of what is and what isn't _ the basic purpose of art to start with.
The unfortunate thing is: A toilet seat is just that _ a toilet seat, if there is no Duchamp and there is no museum.
That's why it is so difficult and risky to test such waters in art.
But if and when you can pull it off, you will be able to create something unique, almost by definition, because most of what you see in art is about following what went before you and got the stamp of approval that it is indeed art and not just a toilet seat.
I have written before about the live music scene in Tokyo.
Watching the young musicians, who all have other jobs and boast absolutely no technical virtuosity as we know it in the West, made me wonder why that community existed and what it was about Japan that created that _ as well as what that meant as far as definitions of art.
I called the phenomenon the Tokyo Flower Children.
Virtuosity is obviously important in art.
But I also realized it's not as important as one may think, especially in this day and age when razzle-dazzle can be packaged, commercialized and bought with money (relatively affordable) like a Cirque de Soleil show (which isn't really art at all _ at least the old-style circus had the elephants and the clowns).
These peacefully wayward Japanese kids are products of an extremely rigid and conformist society that is rapidly unraveling and no longer promising success for all, even if you follow all the rules to the T and prove you will sacrifice individuality for the good of the team.
They are rejecting the package.
They have chosen to be artists.
And to me, there is no doubt they are really artists.
I must thank them for helping me realize that the most important thing about art is that sincerity.
And they certainly have that.
The choice.
The courage to choose.
The vision to see beyond what is being handed to them.
That is what is being sought among the audience at Tokyo live-houses, who are for the most part just their peers.
Art with a capital "A" is proving incapable of moving beyond the market and the galleries catering to the rich.
Art must reach and be about real people.
But whether this kind of art that throws virtuosity out the window can provide anything more than a psychologically therapeutic outlet for the participants remains to be seen.
Look at me! (for technique) surely isn't enough.
But will anyone look if there is no virtuosity at all?
Can you prove value beyond delivering slices-of-life samplings of anthropological curiosity?
And isn't thinking that you can mold virtuous art out of the everyday _ a la Duchamp _ the most arrogant approach to self-expression?
But I don't think it's dishonest or incorrect.
And arrogance, or at least confidence in what you believe, goes with the territory.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Haiku (compiled)

From Yuri to Yuri _ Japanese Womanhood Across Borders of Time
A Contemporary Renku Poem (a work in progress)



stained glass
nudging color into light
my wife's fingers


spring morning
pink explodes
chiffon whirls


dead grandchild
a blurring thought lost in wrinkles
skin lotion's smell


rice paddies
you can see it
a desert horizon


at Hamanako
forgetting burying
beatings by my father


sakura petals
falling, write "I am here!"
into the ditch

So I've put all the haiku together that I wrote recently. In two parts, they are my segments for the work-in-progress poem "From Yuri To Yuri," a collaboration with Yuri Matsueda.
The first part of the series.

Haiku Revised Again


sakura petals
falling, write "I am here!"
into the ditch

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Revising haiku

I've decided to change the haiku from before to this:


I am here! Scattering
petals in the ditch

The way I had it before with 影のなか (In the shadows) was too regular/predictable haiku-like.
Today, on my way to work, I saw cherry trees bending over a muddy ditch.
I realized that image sent a stronger message about what I was feeling _ that the flowers bloom wherever they are, even if no one is watching or aware of its existence.
That to me is utter beauty and presence and life.
And a ditch still can be a good dark backdrop for cascading pink petals.