Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Autobiography of Yoichi Watanabe 2

Isao Tokuhashi and I are working together in compiling an oral history of Yoichi Watanabe, the leader and founder of Tokyo taiko group Amanojaku.
Link to an earlier excerpt, and below another excerpt from the work-in-progress, "The Autobiography of Yoichi Watanabe _ as told to Isao Tokuhashi and Yuri Kageyama":

Most teachers set a two hour or three hour lesson and charge for those hours.
I don’t do that. When I teach a group, I teach from morning until night. That’s because we are going toward the same dream.
Maybe this makes me unprofessional. But I want to be moved. If the people I am involved with are passionate about the music, and they are moved, then I am moved. If I am dishonest to what I believe, I think people will see that.
And so I don’t think about the hours. It’s impossible to teach or create what I want in two or three hours.
The people who perform with me often break into tears. That’s when a teacher can feel truly fulfilled. That’s what I live for.
It’s the same if I go abroad. It gets very busy when I go to Brazil. There is no rest. We are going to lessons from morning until night. But some of the kids are waiting at the hotel for us to get back because they so much want to learn.
I believe that being a taiko drummer was the best job for me. But I also believe that it was a mission given to me by the heavens.
I needed to write a page in taiko history. I wanted to pave the way for those who come after me.
I needed to be able to teach with confidence or else my students won’t be able to play with confidence.
A professional performance is not a recital for friends.
A professional must be spiritually strong like an Olympic athlete undergoing Spartan training.
But without a relationship of trust, a teacher cannot make a student go through that kind of training. If you have not endured this kind of training, and become truly professional, you will be ignored in the professional world.
It all depends on the person. Some need to be scolded. Some need to be praised. Some pick it up without your having said a word, while others never get it even if you tell them many times.
I created the original music that is Amanojaku.
I never wavered. I was always going straight after that goal.
If the roots of a tree are rotten, then it will never flower. But if the roots are solid, the stem will grow strong.
While others paint in colorful oils, I am taking a sumi brush and painting to find my own way. Once I decided that, the rest was easy

winning and losing

In sports, career, dating and other games people play in life, there is always a winner and there is always a loser. Most people spend their time and energy trying to win because winning is crucial to basic needs like survival. The fight of life is about reducing abuse and getting ahead. But how deceiving life can be. It is not really about this kind of winning vs. losing at all. Each and every life holds potential for being a different kind of win that produces no losers at all. Think about the certainty of death and think about what you value the most _ what gives you truest and purest fulfillment. Life is about yourself _ and only yourself. This kind of winning is about winning for yourself. It is a win that cannot be handed to you. It is not being defined outside of yourself. People can win the game of life, hoarding riches and status and empty feel-goodness and turn out a total loser in finding the meaning of life. When you create that music, that poem, that story that feels just right, and when you feel so very close to the meaning of life in that moment, that is a win. When you find that love with no reason except that you love, whether it's for your lover, your child, your protege, your art, the people of the world, or all the generations of humankind that come after you, that is a win.

company you keep

I am so tickled proud to see my name right in-between Roberta Flack and Don Ayler in the list Eric Kamau Gravatt keeps on his Web page for collaborators.

Drumming in 2010

A HAPPY UPBEAT NEW YEAR with taiko drumming by Isaku Kageyama with Seijuro Sawada on shamisen _ all to House DJ-ing _ at the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo during the countdown celebrations Dec. 31, 2009 and Jan. 1, 2010. Dancing, champagne, music and plenty of multicultural spirit to guide us through 2010.

Another video at this link.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

love over time

love over time
a poem by Yuri Kageyama

if you have to ask
it is not love
you would be there
right now
making that love
over time
if it is not
love now
if you can think
it is not love
life without your
giving that love
over time
into love

hey _ this poem is fit for a greeting card !
so perfectly timed: happy holidays.
not that i understand love at all.
but i do believe that if you can sit back and analyze if this or that relationship should or should not be pursued, well, that's not love.
love means there is no other way of thinking.
love means no choices.
you have to be with this person and there is no other way about it.
you want to give, no conditions attached, despite all the betrayals, disappointments, hardships and maybe even the realization the love was just an illusion and not real at all.
over all that time, what you did, what you chose to stand behind _
and that you _ are real.
that's not an illusion, right?
you are that person.
and all those years _ that history _ over which you lived life believing in that love, no one can take that away from you.
you earned it.
that's love.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Countdown Party

Seijuro Sawada, shamisen prodigy, will be collaborating with taiko drummer Isaku Kageyama in a multicultural Countdown Celebration at the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo,
The Sanctuary 3F.
2-1-1 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Nearest Station: Mitsukoshimae.
Welcome in 2010 with taiko and shamisen performed by masters to DJ House and start the Year of the Tiger right.
Contact Isaku for reservations and discount admissions.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

learning about pride

as a parent, i have always tried to instill in my son pride in one's identity (race, culture, national origin).
but i don't think i was ever truly proud.
somewhere deep inside, there was that feeling of being a second-class citizen because i was not white/Anglo-Saxon/a Westerner/an american.
asserting one's pride is the mirror image of that feeling of inadequacy.
if you were really so proud, you wouldn't need to keep saying it.
the whole idea of having to say it over and over again means you aren't so sure and you aren't so proud.
watching my son grow up to be a taiko drummer has helped me learn what true pride in one's identity is.
because there is more to it than just telling yourself over and over that it's OK not to be white.
it is about seeking meaning in your life, pursuing a way of life, including everyday things like the place where you choose to live, the music you choose to listen to, the artists you emulate as your models.
taiko is all about being Japanese although it is a strong statement that holds appeal to the international audience in the same way that the music of Paganini or Mozart holds appeal to the international audience, including many Asians.
in that sense, i have never really been Japanese because my cultural references are Western _ rock 'n' roll, James Joyce, Biblical Salvation, Claude Monet.
there is nothing really wrong with this because being international is a good thing, and art is about transcending the confines of prejudices and boundaries of consciousness.
but watching my son grow up to pursue a Japanese form of music is helping me come to terms with the incompleteness and imperfections of my pride.
now i know, i was never really proud.
i was always ashamed and felt inadequate, even afraid.
i was never sure of what i was trying to pass on to future generations as pride.
or that was precisely why i was so determined to teach my son that pride.
but when i saw that pride staring back at me in my son and how beautiful and oh so Japanese taiko can be,
i was confronted with pride in its truest and purest that stem so deep from one's soul from someone so close to me that he is a part of me.
and so now that pride is mine.

Life is good


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

ego and egoism

Art is all about ego.
Even if you are the kind of artist who believes that only amateurish art is about self-expression and true art is about something else entirely, no one disagrees that art can stem only from the self that is the artist.
Most forms of selfishness as they play out in society are negative, often evil.
People want to save their own asses and want more money, status, privileges, at the cost of others, and so place themselves in career/society/hierarchy to feed that ego and that egotistical need.
This is the reality that is 99.99999 percent of reality.
This is the reality that I don't understand and never have understood.
It is not particularly interesting and certainly not satisfying.
Unfortunately, if we want to survive as human beings until death and support our family, we must deal with this torturous but undeniable 99.99999 percent of reality, since it IS 99.99999 percent _ if we count all the people who choose to be involved in this pursuit of career, money, status, etc. as valid values and goals vs. those who are interested in and satisfied by something else and become poets.
Poetry is a form of art that is as divorced from the worldly pursuits that make up 99.99999 percent of reality as things can get.
The ego takes center stage but in a way that is irrelevant from politicking, career advancement and mundane unbecoming unpoetic competition.
A poet is ego pure and simple and total and unafraid.
A poet exercises selfishness with a free conscience.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

survival of the fittest and the apex predator

in the animal kingdom, the strongest members of the species not only survive, they also get to mate or spawn and so they have the best chance to leave their genetic makeup and characteristics to future generations.
that is why females choose to have sex with powerful, rich, big, strong men.
in those Discovery Channel videos, male lions fight each other to decide on a winner that gets to mate.
in tuna, the males swim viciously over the eggs at the speed of a sportscar to spawn and so the strongest and fastest tuna get to leave their genes to legacy.
loser tuna are also swimming in the group and leaving their trails of sperm over the eggs but all too late because the eggs have already been fertilized by what the bigger and stronger male tuna spurted out.
and so it is forever the instinct for the female's own survival and her offspring/eggs and the survival of the species to seek out the strongest.
but the human being may be one species capable of reversing that.
what could be more inhumane than being the most powerful predator?
isn't it more desirable and attractive to be giving and humble, to sacrifice and accept honorable defeat instead of aggressively winning at someone else's cost?
why must we be tuna? or a lion?
why shouldn't being a loser be sexy?
to the enlightened liberated human female?