Saturday, August 29, 2009

rocket scientist

rocket scientist
a poem by Yuri Kageyama

people sometimes laugh when they learn
my father was a rocket scientist
my father was also a child-beater
this is not a laughing matter
people think abusers are alcoholic degenerates,
unemployed high-school dropouts or drug addicts
who swing their wives around the room
clutching their hair and beating them
and beat the kid while at it
but my father needed to get violent because
he was under stress on his job
he worked for the Apollo program
you know the one when Armstrong the astronaut talks about
the one giant leap for mankind
he was one of the first Japanese who got to work for NASA
that's why I have a bit of a Southern accent
when I say words like: "you all" or "Alabama" or "NASA"
his office was at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama
everyone in my school worked for the military or for NASA
we still have an autographed photo of von Braun
when we got back to Japan,
he was on TV to talk about our trip to the moon
I wasn't that proud but my mother was proud
I was more scared about saying the wrong thing and setting him off
it was mysterious _ I never figured it out
one moment, he was joking, so witty and sharp
just like a rocket scientist
a jolly roly-poly guy
but he would change
and I would feel a fat whack against my head
it would get so infinitely dark before my eyes
inside my cavernous buzzing head
like I was swimming and spinning into outer space
and I would see tiny sparkling stars
he didn't drink or do drugs
he was a rocket scientist
when I got older and got the nerve
I asked him why he had done that
what was he thinking?
I wanted to know
and he said he didn't know
he helped us get to the moon but
the rocket scientist didn't know
he couldn't remember why he hit me at all

money for art

This is what I heard from a dancer.
But the biggest stars of Tokyo Butoh troupe Dairakudakan, not just the student dancers, don't ever get paid to perform.
Instead, they must bring in money from outside jobs to a pool of funds that has been set up to support the group's performances and other artistic activities.
So they are paying to dance _ never mind worrying about getting paid to perform.
The question has already been answered.
You dance to dance. That's it.
The dance is separate from livelihood _ which must be dealt with outside of dance.
That's why I think Dairakudan performers exude that absolute confidence.
They look at us with disdain because they know they are pure and we are not.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Talking Taiko _ the Movie

Yoichi Watanabe, master taiko drummer, shows his stuff at Bon Odori _ as he does each and every year (with Daisuke Watanabe and Isaku Kageyama of Watanabe-led Amanojaku).
Bon Odori
Conneting with the past
And all that went before us
Connecting with the future
And all that awaits
A poetic moment
Being a poet is seeing so much more in the everyday.
Bon Odori is the closing scene of "Talking Taiko," a movie I'm working on with Japanese director and film-maker Yoshiaki Tago.
He's doing his stuff on a Shibuya pedestrian walkway _ another place where we are finding a poetic moment.

trailer on YouTube

Do we write to live or live to write?
Do we write to remember or do we write to forget?
Do we write to remember or do we write to be remembered?
Do we write so we don't kill or do we write so we don't kill ourselves?
Do we make movies to live or live to make movies?
Do we make music to live or live to make music?
Do we write to live or live to write?
Do we live?
Do we live?
Do we live?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Amanojaku at Astro Hall

Amanojaku led by master drummer and composer Yoichi Watanabe did their "live" concert at Astro Hall in Harajuku THU Aug 20.
The stage was so small their pieces like "Dotou" and "Bujin" got a different, bit cramped, look.
But the music was as forceful and fascinating as always.
And it's great Amanojaku is taking stage in a place like Harajuku.
You certainly got a close up look.
Chris Holland, from Denver Taiko, made his professional debut with Amanojaku and got a great strong sound on his odaiko solo.
Go Chris!
Amanojaku will be at a Bon Odori _ Japan's native dance festival for the homecoming of ancestral spirits.
So if you want to get down and dance and have fun, hop on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line to Minami Tanaka Danchi (housing projects) in Nerima Ward.
Get off at Nerima Takanodai station and follow the drumbeat.
Thank the Japanese gods for another summer that's over.

FRI Aug. 21 and SAT Aug. 22

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Noticing accents

I'd come home from international school, excited I had made a friend. I was puzzled one of the first questions my mother would ask was: What nationality is she? I had to think hard for an answer. I hadn't thought to ask. But she wouldn't stop probing: What color of hair does she have? Does she speak Japanese? What is her last name?
In hindsight, now that I am an adult, this sounds unbelievable. But I often couldn't remember what color hair she had _ maybe it was brownish? black? The most important thing _ the only thing that mattered, and I was maybe 10 years old, 8? _ was that I had found this person who for some reason liked me and was now my friend. Why didn't adults understand that this was what I wanted to talk about, not what nationality she was, or what color of eyes she had so we could figure out what nationality she was?
This may sound bizarre. But many people who attended international schools at a young age have the same experience. Of course, we knew that people came in different sizes and colors and had different preferences for what they liked to eat or do. But it was a mixed up blur of so many ways to distinguish people _ the tone of their voice, their laugh, their skills in coming up with games _ that big words like the Philippines, Iran, America, China, Zambia, whatever, were just tongue-twister that didn't seem half as interesting as the other, more fun ways to tell kids apart.
This is not as bizarre as it sounds. Scientists have found that Japanese babies learn very quickly not to pay attention to the difference between Rs and Ls. That doesn't matter in the Japanese language. For the same reason languages must be acquired early, a child learns what to pay attention to and what not to notice. The world is such a buzz of information, how we discriminate must be learned.
The innocent world, however transient or artificial, where nationality doesn't matter, felt so comfortable that when I learned it wasn't real _ or encountered cases when I had to finally face up to the fact that it wasn't ever real _ it was painful. It was more painful because I had gotten a taste of that innocent world. If I hadn't, I'd probably have accepted it with a shrug, the same way I wouldn't know the difference between Rs and Ls. I can roll my Rs like a salsa singer.
In Japan, a nation that prides itself on being homogeneous and harmonious, horror stories abound of children of Chinese or Korean ancestry routinely being harassed by Japanese, stalked daily, beaten, taunted. And they aren't even a different race.
Once acquired, the art of discrimination is something people thrive on, "ijime" that engrosses the masses.
I don't know why being discriminated for race or ethnicity or sex hurts so much more than being discriminated for performance or personal choices, even looks, another genetically determined feature. But it does. It makes me feel so vulnerable, as though I have been stripped naked, and I can't fight back. In Sociology, we learn race and sex are what we call "master traits." That means other qualities a person may acquire, such as education or career experience, can never ever ever override what is predetermined about that person by race and sex. It is more important in society that someone is black or yellow or white or that someone is male or female than that person happens to be an astronaut or a gangster. Can you imagine that? To me, that is ridiculously bizarre. I want everyone to learn from that child who rushes back to tell her mother she just found a friend _ never mind what nationality she is.

Isaku gets interviewed

Photo by Naokazu Oinuma.

Isaku gets interviewed on his views on music, identity and the art of AMANOJAKU taiko in Isao Tokuhashi's "My Eyes Tokyo." A Podcast is in the works.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Literature, music and dance Aug. 23 at GAMUSO

A message from organizer David Hoenigman:
Please don't forget PAINT YOUR TEETH vol. 4
Sunday, Aug. 23rd.
Gamuso in Asagaya.
6:30 door opens
opens with IN MINOTAUR!!! going on at 6:45PM.
still only 1,000 yen ! (including 1 drink so really only 500 yen)

DEFEKTRETTS no boys allowed incarnation of junk machine sound pioneers DEFEKTRO: one dj and two noise makers.

David F. Hoenigman reads from his antinovel in progress "Squeal For Joy"
with a slide show featuring artwork by Yasutoshi Yoshida.

Yuri Kageyama has collaborated with musicians, dancers and visual artists in performances of her poetry. She has read with Ishmael Reed and Shuntaro Tanikawa among many others.

Kei Kunihiro death metal crooner and Internet sensation. 435,540 views and counting!

LIVING ASTRO the Joe Meek adoring rock/sample/synth mutant pop duo.

SHIT _ slapdash assembly of area experimental musicians on a burning ferris wheel: OWKMJ, Taishin Inoue, Ezra Woolnough and many others.

see you there!

photo by Annette Dorfman

Jellyfish in Monterey
photo by Annette Dorfman.

write it down

write it down
a poem by Yuri Kageyama

write it down
sumi strokes on rice paper
sway over incense
fold origami style and
tie on a tree
write it down
beatings by your father
betrayal by your lover
rapes by your neighbor
scorn from your enemy
write it down
not to remember for legacy
but to purge and purify
not notes for later but
simply to forget
write it down

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Neoteny Japan

Bejeweled gourds and intricately decorated dolls from Mayu Kikuchi make for yet another but superbly whimsical statement in Japanese neoteny art.
I asked her why so much of Japanese art looks this way, and she says that's so established these days, that's what sells and what art teachers steer you toward.
"Before, I used to do more grotesque pieces, like a knife stabbing the head," she motions with her hand toward her forehead, smiling, "and then things are spurting out."
She and her mother were selling her lovingly handmade works at an annual summer craft fair in Shiodome, Tokyo.
She has huge dolls, characters from strange tales in her mind, modern-day versions of Bunraku puppets.
Those weren't for sale because they had taken so long to make, said Kikuchi, 25.
Other works weren't quite so priceless.
And so one of her cloth fish and "kokeshi" madames now hang in our living room, swimming with joy and doubt about where they stand in the world of universal art.


Isaku Kageyama of Amanojaku collaborates with Yuu Ishizuka formerly of Oedo Sukeroku in a rare concert that brings together different taiko schools _ and, while at it, forges an innovative "beat ahead" sound in Japanese percussion.
OCT. 22 Thursday at Crocodile in Harajuku, Tokyo 7 p.m. (doors open 6:30 p.m.)
advance tickets: 3,000 yen. at door: 3,500 yen.
Also featuring: Winchester Nii Tete, Chris Holland, Azn Steez, Bachi Atari.
Map to Crocodile
B1 New Sekiguchi Building
6-18-8 Jingumae Shibuya-ku Tokyo
TEL: 03-3499-5205
For tickets:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Taiko Quizz

A quizz for taiko-drummers from Isaku Kageyama (found on the Amanojaku Hozonkai Web page):


意気揚々とやぐらに上がったが、途中で音が取れなくなってしまい、焦る気持ちとは裏腹にどんどんズレていく。 踊り手がこちらを見ている! ヤバイ!

カッコよく盆太鼓が打てるように8月2日、9日は滝野川で17:00-21:30まで盆踊りの稽古をします。 稽古では次のポイントなどをやりますので奮ってご参加ください。

1. 炭坑節が裏に返るところは?

A) Aメロの4小節目 B)Bメロの4小節目 C)炭坑節は裏に返らない D)炭坑節って何だっけ?

2. 八木節の1バースは何小節?

A) 8小節 B)12小節 C)16小節 D)八木節は小説とかそう言う問題ではない

3. 郡上踊りのテンポは?

A) 55bpm B)65bpm C)75bpm D)85bpm

4. 相馬盆唄や北海盆唄など「盆唄」のテンポは大体95bpm。 これは洋楽のどのジャンルと一緒?

A) ロック B)ジャズ C)R&B/ヒップホップ D)レゲェ