Thursday, December 16, 2010

mix of taiko beats out the new in familiar sounds

Click on this, "Midare Uchi" to watch on YouTube in a rare collaboration by drummers from three Tokyo groups plus a kawaii guest.
from the recent BEAT AHEAD at Roppongi's SuperDeluxe in Tokyo starring Isaku Kageyama of Amanojaku, Yuu Ishizuka of Bachiatari and Makoto Sekine of Medetai.
Below, they join forces on "Bujin" the trademark Amanojaku piece by master composer Yoichi Watanabe.
Click on this to see that _ also on YT as the embedding isn't working for some reason.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Haiku by Yuri Kageyama

Haiku by Yuri Kageyama

a blue plastic bag
so hard so still no more
Tokyo train tracks

in my deathly dreams
your sweet breath, fat knees, wet hands
a child forever

timeless tweet timeline
scroll blindly touch-panel light
mumbles of loneliness

I wrote these recently, the last one just a few seconds ago.
The first one is about the body bags that we see lying by the railroad tracks because a fair number of Japanese people commit suicide by flinging themselves in front of commuter trains.
It is stunning how the bags have an eerily impersonal color, and they are motionless and rigid.
But you can tell for some reason that it is a body in there, nothing else.
There is nothing that we can do as witnesses except to pray.
The body bags are a constant reminder of the otherworldly closeness of death amid the mundane like riding the commuter train to work.
They seem to increase during the winter months _ maybe because cold is more depressing than warm, especially if you are feeling down, and maybe because the year-end and New Year's holiday season comes as a stark reminder of how extremely alone a lonely person really is.
My third poem is about Twitter, which I do quite actively because it is encouraged on my job.
I see how people want to connect to others, not just the people they know in real life, but to others they will never meet.
It's called networking, and it shows how the world is a small place in this rapidly globalizing age.
As the world turns, the iPhone touch-panel whirls under your fingertips as you scroll the Twitter timeline, showing comments from all over the world, mostly about nothing, and photos of dinners and lunches and sunsets and pets.
It is a cool technology and a convenient tool.
But it is also about how people are alone but can't stand to be by themselves.
People are lonely.
The poem in-between is about my recurring dreams, where my son, who is fully grown in his 20s, is still a toddler.
My little boy.
I wake up, looking for him, almost panicked, wondering if he is OK, and then I am relieved there is no need to worry.
It is just a dream.
I have always believed death would be like a dream, except you never wake up.
And so I realize these dreams are a reminder that I am still always reliving motherhood, though I am just growing older and getting closer to death.
I'm reliving that moment of motherhood, with my son being that eternal child, and death will not be an end at all but a recurring dream.
I feel as though I am going backward in time.
Life has no beginning or end.
Death is just a string of pockets of different dreamlike moments, in no particular order, in and out, falling and flying and rising, being lost in a blurry faraway dream.

Previous Haiku by Yuri Kageyama.

Music in Tokyo

Heard the other day at Gamuso, a cool artsy dive in Tokyo where I have read poetry with music a couple of times, Samm Bennett on the diddley bow, a one-string instrument made of a marron glace box, speaking a million words with a single string, his voice and his heart.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Taiko as REAL MUSIC in Tokyo

Not your everyday around-the-corner taiko, this is serious music that challenges the boundaries of ethnic tradition and identity and universal eternal art.
Isaku Kageyama with Daisuke Watanabe and Chris Holland of Amanojaku Tokyo's top taiko group led by master drummer and composer Yoichi Watanabe play in a collaborative concert with Yuu Ishizuka, and Makoto Sekine.
SUN Nov. 28 6 p.m.
at Roppongi SuperDeluxe
3-1-25-B1 Nishi Azabu Minato-ku Tokyo, Japan.
TEL: 03-5412-0515
3,500 yen w/advance reservation.
4,000 yen at the door.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

becky nao

becky nao
a poem by Yuri Kageyama

becky nao
kicked me so my shins turned purple
taunted me daily mimicking my voice
becky nao
believed there was only one slot
for an Asian girl in fourth grade class
becky nao
the white girls weren't rivals
only me, the one other Oriental girl,
becky nao
slit eyes and black hair,
good grades, neat handwriting
becky nao
if i fell dead, gone, wiped out,
she could be that survivor yellow girl
becky nao
who's going to tell us apart?
so there can be only one of us
becky nao
flicks her eyelashes at blond boys
flaunting a fetish, even at age 10
becky nao
fat face, fat calves
her fat belief as the solitary token
becky nao
hatred curled tight in a nasty gnarl
all for wishing to be that China doll
becky nao

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Taiko drummers Isaku Kageyama, Yuu Ishizuka, Makoto Sekine at Super Deluxe

Drummer Isaku Kageyama of Amanojaku collaborates with Yuu Ishizuka of Bachiatari and Makoto Sekine of Taikoshownin Medetai to explore new possibilities in MODERN TAIKO.
at Super Deluxe in Roppongi, Tokyo.
SUN Nov. 28, 2010.
Doors open 5:30 p.m. Music starts 6 p.m.
advance 3,500 yen. door 4,000 yen.
Make your reservations online.
B1F 3.1.25 Nishi Azabu, Minato-ku,
Tokyo 106-0031, Japan
tel: 03-5412-0515
5 minutes walk toward Nishi Azabu on Roppongi dori from Roppongi station (Hibiya Line or Oedo Line).
30 seconds walk from Roppongi 6-chome bus stop (TO-01 Shinbashi >> Shibuya).
1 minute walk from Roppongi 6-chome bus stop (TO-01 Shibuya >> Shinbashi).

More Mother Earth Orchestra

Video/photos by Ryan Bruss.
Mother Earth Orchestera Sept. 23, 2010 at Kuraki Noh Theater
Isaku Kageyama taiko/cajon
Winchester Nii Tete African kpanlogo, odono and other drums
Nata didgeridoo
Cari electric guitar

Thursday, September 30, 2010

MEO photos by Luis Silva

Great photos by Luis Silva _ a video-journalist/photographer/artist who creates We All Japan _ from the recent Noh stage concert by Isaku Kageyama and his Mother Earth Orchestra.

Goals to go for

What I found and was happy to find from taiko drummer Isaku Kageyama and what is the dream of all arists:

I wanted to play at the highest possible level that was humanly imaginable.
I wanted a feeling that somehow the music I was playing was “my own.”

Friday, September 24, 2010

Amanojaku's Dotou

Found on YouTube this video of Amanojaku performing "Dotou" at a Tokyo school July 2010.
They smoke!
A great taiko tune by Amanojaku leader and master drummer Yoichi Watanabe.
From left to right:
Isaku Kageyama, Chris Holland and Daisuke Watanabe.


from left to right
Winchester Nii Tete, NATA, Cari and Isaku Kageyama.

Mother Earth Orchestra brought together instruments from various continents to a Noh Theater to take us on a musical journey that showed great potential of innovation.
It showed the music is truly evolving from its launch at Tokyo Harajuku Crocodile just a month ago.
Music allows for such development through collaborations that can be more than the sum of its parts.
And Music directs us to further fulfillment.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Isaku Kageyama's Mother Earth Orchestra

ISAKU KAGEYAMA and the MOTHER EARTH ORCHESTRA at Yokohama Kuraki Noh Theatre

Taiko, African percussion, digeridoo and electric guitar celebrate our time on Mother Earth with organic beats and melodies.

THURSDAY, September 23 6:30 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.)
Kuraki Noh Theatre 8-21-7 Okamura Isogo-ku Yokohama
2,500 yen (2,000 yen with reservations: e-mail Isaku

How to get to Kuraki Noh Theatre

A 15 minute cab ride from Isogo Station.
Or take bus 64 or 78 from Isogo station on the JR line or Byobugaura station on the Keikyu line and get off at Sasabori.
Five minute walk from Sasabori bus stop.


Cari (guitar)
NATA (digeridoo)
Winchester Nii Tete (percussion)
Isaku Kageyama (taiko)

マザー・アース・オーケストラ 久良岐能舞台でライブ


日時: 9月23日(木・祝) 開場18:00 開演18:30
場所: 久良岐能舞台 (神奈川県横浜市磯子区岡村8-21-7)
料金: 当日2500円 予約2000円

予約は: までメールをお送りください。



影山伊作 (和太鼓)

伝統と創造、和と洋、古来とアヴァンギャルド、様々な要素が交差する独自の音楽性を活かし、コンサートホール、ライブハウス、クラブイベント、レコーディング、舞台のみならず、CM(あいおい損保・新日本建物)や数多くのテレビ番組(SMAP X SMAP、未来図鑑)に出演。

ジャズトランペットの近藤等則、DJ Yama aka Sahib、アフリカン・パーカッションのWinchester Nii Tete、ロックギタリストのCariなどとのコラボレーションに加え、ロックギター、ジャズベースとのコラボバンド「Hybrid Soul」や民謡バンド「Minyo Ensemble of Tokyo」を立ち上げるなど、幅広い音楽活動が高く評価されている。

Cari (ギター)
NATA (ディジュリデュ)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Poem Breaking Silence

My poem "Disco Chinatown" is in "Breaking Silence," an anthology of Asian American poetry (1983: Greenfield Review Press) featured in the latest edition of this online magazine "asiacana."

Disco Chinatown
a poem by Yuri Kageyama

street blood throbbing
punk maggots of the slums with fake ID's
smelling British sterling
cover the stink of sweat, car grease and dirt
and the blood from being cut up by a Jo
or is it W.C?
slant eye to slant eye talking
smooth talking or trying,
"hey, baby-
looking nice tonight"
spilling sunrises
bourbons with cherries
giddy easy striding to make it to my table
in your own eyes, a ghetto knight,
"wanna drink?"
in a flash and a flick, light my cigarette
the dance floor is dead tonight
linoleum cracked
the Filipino D.J. Berkeley Asian American Studies drop out is stoned
and even the lights look neon sleazy
you want me to move, a wax museum dancing doll, under your macho
or in your arms, rocking following your rocks,
layered black hair,
moustache, always, to tickle the quick kisses,
cheap shiny shirt, four buttons open,
a jade pendant swaying against yellow brown flesh,
darker brown leather and long long legs,
you want to take me home
and the grip on my shoulder tightens,
you driving a Camaro Z28?
an Olds 442?
a broken down Malibu?
a Caddy Eldorado?
you want to be rich someday
you want to enjoy life, you say,
cuz it's so so short,
ALL girls want you for their old man,
"in bed, I have a good body,
opium makes me last
and last
I'm ten inches
and, "a smile,
"this thick"
you play the mind games with a too ridiculous seriousness
not another escape out just for kicks
your street male pride can't take no scratches
you'll kick my ass when the number I give you isn't mine
you tell me not to dance with anyone else
when I just met you tonight
and isn't your old lady waiting at your apartment?
hardened hard up
Ricksha stray tiger cat
your life view quite
touch mine
and being gang banged isn't my type of thrill
disco steps don't silence sirens
and the skyscraper lights don't touch Grant Avenue on a Friday night
Golden Dragon massacred meat can't ever be pieced back together again
black lights and hanging ferns or Remy sweetness can't hide
spilled out alley fish guts
that tell you and tell you
there just ain't no future
your hands grope
your eyes closed
your tongue dry
your penis limp
poor ChinaMAN-child

Yuricane after action

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Poetry and Music in Tokyo this Saturday

I'm used to talking to myself.
But please stop by for the Yuricane poetry and music SAT Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. (doors open 6:30 p.m.)
Gamuso in Asagaya, Tokyo.

Excerpted from the foreword by Ishmael Reed for my upcoming book of poems and short stories, "The New and Selected Yuri: Writing From Peeling till Now":

The Yuricane (an excerpt)
By Ishmael Reed

They’ve called Yuri “cute” often during her life. She’s cute all right. Like a tornado is cute. Like a hurricane is cute. This Yuricane. I found that out when she was a student at the University of California at Berkeley.
One of her poems about iconic white women became an underground hit on campus.
The audience at the Bowery Poetry Club was also blown away by her poem, "Little YELLOW Slut," a devastating look at the way Asian women are depicted in the media ....

Little YELLOW Slut
By Yuri Kageyama
first published in KONCH MAGAZINE, 2009.

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.

Friday, August 27, 2010

behold the egg

behold the egg
a poem by Yuri Kageyama

behold the egg
boil it with a pinch of salt
for the simplest meal
full of Vitamin D
behold the egg
paint it pink, blue, green
to hide and find for Easter
remember resurrection
behold the egg
embraced by a brittle shell
the secret of life
not quite round but whole
behold the egg
waiting blind and eyeless
for a blind, eyeless sperm
to give birth that can finally see
behold the egg
behold the egg

Thursday, August 19, 2010

clips of music tonight

Video from my iPhone at links below just to give you an idea of what happened.

better quality video upcoming soon on YouTube:

at Harajuku Crocodile in Tokyo Thursday evening Aug. 19, 2010.

the Music will get better.

music tonight

please come to the Crocodile in Omotesando tonight (see previous blog post for details).
follow Isaku Kageyama on Twitter _ @isakukageyama
and claim your free beer tonight:
木曜日に原宿クロコダイルでライブやります。 僕に「ツイッターで見た」と話しかけてくれればクロコダイルビールご馳走します。
Playing at Harajuku Crocodile from 20:00 on Thursday the 19th. I'll buy you a beer if you make it out!
Isaku will be cooking up a melting plot of a hot groove with Japanese sax legend Kazutoki Umezu, master percussionist from Ghana Winchester Nii Tete, bassist virtuoso from the US Craig Harris and a Japanese who plays an aboriginal instrument NATA.
No borders for this batch.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mother Earth Orchestra

Isaku Kageyama on taiko drums will lead his Mother Earth Orchestra, a multicultural celebration of sound, with Winchester Nii Tete on African drums, Kazutoki Umezu on saxophones, Craig Harris on bass and Nata on didgeridoo.
It's Great Japanese Music from modern-day Tokyo that follows proudly in the footsteps of the Art Ensemble of Chicago _ an energetic driving groove, where anything goes.
It is funky, fun, free.
And it's the kind of exhilarating music that makes everything seem somehow a lot easier to bear.
At the Crocodile in Harajuku Thursday Aug. 19.
Doors open 6:30 p.m. Music starts 8 p.m.
6-18-8 B1 Jingumae Shibuya-ku Tokyo
TEL: 03-3499-5205.
3,000 yen admission (drinks, food available but will cost you extra).
For more information, email Isaku at
Isaku Kageyama is an award-winning taiko drummer and a member of Tokyo-based taiko ensemble Amanojaku, and teaches taiko not only all over Japan but also in Brazil and in the U.S.
He also plays with musicians of various genres, including Toshinori Kondo, Winchester Nii Tete, Seijuro Sawada, Cari, Terumasa Hino and Yoshinori Kikuchi.
He leads his taiko rock group called Hybrid Soul, with Chris Young on electric guitar and Pat Glynn on bass, which is coming out with a CD this year.
The point through all this is to cross musical and cultural boundaries to claim a legitimate and respected place for taiko and Japanese-American music in the legacy of modern art and innovation.
Isaku, 28, was born in San Francisco and began studying at age 6 with Kenny Endo, formerly of San Francisco Taiko Dojo, who now works out of Hawaii and is one of America's most respected taiko drummers.
Isaku began studying with Yoichi Watanabe of Amanojaku, master composer in modern Tokyo-style taiko, shortly after he began his studies with Kenny Endo.
Isaku Kageyama now performs with Amanojaku all over Japan and abroad, and has done concerts in Rio De Janeiro, Denver, Honolulu and other cities.
He has also taken part in Japanese TV shows with SMAP, Shuzo Matsuoka, Tsunku and the Sumida River fireworks, as well as in TV ads for Aioi Insurance Company.
Follow Isaku Kageyama on Twitter: @isakukageyama
Listen to his music on MySpace:

Saturday, August 7, 2010

electronic taico by Isaku Kageyama in Tokyo

Taiko drummer Isaku Kageyama will be among those playing at Summer Sounds at Laputa in Aoyama _ a restaurant, swimming pool and music club all in one in Tokyo _ next Saturday, Aug. 14 at about 8 p.m.
The event starts at noon and continues until 11 p.m. Admission is free if you get there by 2 p.m. (if you're into that).
The flyer giving samples of artists' performances here.
Isaku's take on the endeavor in his blog entry here.
So eat, swim, dance, groove, sit aorund, whatever but listen to good music.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Amanojaku at Super Deluxe in Tokyo in May 2010

the younger members of Amanojaku a taiko group in Tokyo
from left to right:
Chris Holland, Isaku Kageyama, Daisuke Watanabe, Hiromi Sekine.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

ways of saying 'yes' in Japanese

ways of saying 'yes' in Japanese
a poem by Yuri Kageyama

That's the correct way of replying when spoken to in Japan for centuries, hai! the way people are taught in school, by their parents, what's right in society _
respect for the hierarchy, yes sir, thank you ma'am, hai hai hai, like hiccups, like hiphiphurray, hai! hai! hai! no pause, no hesitation, no thought,
following orders, quick, no questions, grunt it out, soldiers at attention, yelling, spitting, believing, say it with all your heart and mind,
That's the way people answer in Japan these says, haa~aai! the way people drop out of school, freeters, parents are just friends to follow only on Twitter _
flattening out the hierarchy, maybe yes, maybe not, haa~aai! like a mumble, like a whisper, a kiss on the ear, haa~aai, innocent, hurt only for others,
wind blowing in your hair, smiley faces heart icons in cell phones, improvise, imagine, immaculate, sing it without a care in the world,

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Toshinori Takimoto's Drum Circle

"Drumming at the Edge of Magic: A Journey into the Spirit of Percussion," by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart is Japanese drummer Toshinori Takimoto's bible.
And it shows in every way at his Drum Circle, a once-a-month gathering at a Tokyo suburb, a special spot for those who love the spirit of the drum, sharing in the oneness in the rhythms they create like a dance of sound.
Takimoto switches from one instrument to another, shaking a shekere, jangling a tambourine, whacking a djembe, sometimes orchestra conductor, sometimes master percussionist, sometimes fatherly teacher.
He jokes around, gesticulates like a mime, a shaman of the drum, all the time playing with energy, keeping the rhythm going so that everyone sounds pretty good.
Never fear: He won't get mad _ even if you mess up.
The players seated in a circle do the best they can to follow where the music is going in a jubilant outburst of Takimoto's drumbeat.
Playing together, keeping time to a primordial beat, brings harmony, says Takimoto, who has played with the big names in the Japanese pop music industry, including Yutaka Ozaki and Seiko Matsuda.
But he says he feels the kind of music he is pursuing with his Drum Circle is more him than the glitzy but often empty world of commercial music.
And somehow, each of us leaves his Drum Circle a gentler, maybe happier, person, a skip in our feet and a buzzing warmth in our hearts.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

More photos by Katsumi Kasahara

Photos from May 13, 2010 concert by Amanojaku in Tokyo.

Amanojaku concert - photos by Katsumi Kasahara

Modern Music Ensemble of Tokyo

Isaku Kageyama's Modern Music Ensemble of Tokyo seeks to break down boundaries, with an ambition inspired by the spirit of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and to show there is only good music and bad music, as the great Duke Ellington said.
Featuring taiko drumming(Isaku Kageyama), shakuhachi flute (Yoshinori Kikuchi), Tsugaru-style shamisen (Seiemon Sawada) and regular Western-style bass (Gian), mixing it all up with minyo folk songs, bluegrass, Cuban, pop and original compositions, embarking on a journey that is about one-ness, the "kizuna" of Music, and to claim for taiko and Japanese modern music a rightful place in that universal legacy.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A tribute in Tokyo for Eliazar a great drummer

Clip from the May 15 musical tribute in Buddy, Tokyo for Venezuelan drummer Eliazar Yanes, who died Jan. 22. Taiko drumming and singing by Yoichi Watanabe, Hiromi Ogawa on taiko and percussion, traps drums by Takayoshi Tanaka, Katsunari Sawada on shamisen, Morris Reina on guitar and cuatro, Jun Ishibashi on vocals and guitar, and bassist Ikuo Okamoto.
Yanes studied taiko, believed music could unite people across nationalities and cultures, and felt a strong spiritual connection with his teacher Yoichi Watanabe of Amanojaku.
Yanes used to say he knows he was Japanese in a previous life. When he visited Watanabe for the first time in a kodan danchi in Tokyo, he was thrilled Watanabe, like him, was from the "barrios," so close was the resemblance in the housing complex.
Yanes was widely respected as a jazz drummer, but he was also instrumental in introducing taiko in Venezuela.
Watanabe learned about Yanes' death when Watanabe was in Brazil, on his international musical mission, teaching Japanese Brazilian youngsters taiko. Watanabe loved Yanes deeply. He wanted to play and sing for Eliazar in Heaven.
For that moment, Eliazar was with us _ right there in Buddy.
Music is an international language, the musicians said, beyond words, beyond war, beyond death.
Wait for us Eliazar, the musicians said, we will be there soon _ well, maybe not so soon but soon enough.
And we will play music together again.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

PS to Tadanori Yokoo on Twitter (2)

P.S. to Tadanori Yokoo on Twitter Part Two:
That is not to say that an artist isn't confident of one's value.
If you aren't sure you're worth godzillions of dollars, then you can't be an artist.
You would need to believe that to go on.
Yokoo tweets you just do what you do and then someone comes around who thinks it's great and pays for it.
He started out as a commercial artist and was extremely successful.
And then, in the 1990s he turned his back on all that suddenly and decided to become just an artist.
That's partly why his Twitter pronouncements about getting paid for art hold special meaning.

Annette Borromeo Dorfman

Annette has been my friend for a long time because we used to ride the Chuo Line together to go to high school in Tokyo.
She is also a great artist.
This is one of her recent works.
Doesn't it look like someone went back in time and was there to take a photo of "Madonna and Child" and painted inspired by that photo like a magical-realist/photo-realist?
Isn't it a quirky but an absolutely sublime mix of old and new, the profound and the everyday?
The faces in her paintings are self-portraits as mother/woman/believer/goddess/artist/
because all art is about that.
This painting already got sold.
But there are others, which can be seen on her Facebook link.

Up-and-coming stars of AMANOJAKU taiko

AMANOJAKU taiko drums at SuperDeluxe club in Roppongi, TOKYO.
The three younger stars of Amanojaku take their thunderous beat out of the usual concert halls to the hip-hop clubs of Tokyo.
The event explores where else taiko can go as modern music.
THU May 13, 2010. 8 p.m.
3-1-25 Nishi Azabu Minato-ku
Tokyo, Japan
4,000 yen at door (3,500 yen advance) ticket includes one drink.
Photo (from left to right):
Daisuke Watanabe, Isaku Kageyama, Chris Holland.
They're all in their 20s, students of Amanojaku leader Yoichi Watanabe, but all play with him in the professional troupe, which just had a fantastic concert at Tokyo FM Hall last week.

More information on Amanojaku and to watch a video clip of Amanojaku.
Isaku's official website.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tadanori Yokoo on Twitter (part three)

Tadanori Yokoo on Twitter drops names and makes you hungry.
He says Yoko Ohno came by and had sirloin "tonkatsu" in the middle of the day because she is a sizzling greasy hot person, and he himself was a bit worried about heartburn.
He also says Yukio Mishima ate steak at least once a week because he believed that art is about the body, not just the mind, and forgetting the body in art makes you a big-headed wimp.

Tadanori Yokoo on Twitter (part two)

Tadanori Yokoo on Twitter says, if you are doing what you truly believe in, what other people say ("hyoka" or social evaluation/assessment) doesn't matter.
No one really does art to get something back in return.
No one really knows if art is valid or not.
Evaluation/assessment is something that is determined by a commercial market, job contract or social hierarchy.
That's when evaluation/assessment becomes relevant _ and it must be fair and accurate or else someone is getting exploited, which goes contrary to what art is about from the get-go.
But it is important to remember that something monetary, contractual and social is involved in those endeavors in which evaluation/assessment takes meaning.
But art is not a job and has nothing to do with all that.
That is the privilege of art and also the painful difficulties of art.
Art by definition means you will never be properly evaluated.
No one will come pat you on the back and say: hey, your art is great.
Unless it is an evaluation/assessment that makes art commercial, a job or a reflection of social ranking, which isn't really about art at all but something just maybe related to art only in the sense that artists are human and need to eat and pay rent.
That is why doing any commercial marketing activity for your art is a big pain because you have to do it even though it isn't relevant or really meaningful.
At least, even if everyone ignores you and your art, you know you don't care.

Tadanori Yokoo on Twitter

The way Tadanori Yokoo uses Twitter gives the technology a new dimension. He tweets the way he draws. It's an approach to life/death and meaning/meaninglessneess and the gaps/spaces in-between. He throws his words out as they cross his mind, reaching out to the other reality that is the shadow of death and the faraway universe inhabited by aliens calling out to us in beeps and brush strokes and gasps of a deranged poet. They come and go, lost into cyberspace, our blood, our flashes, our yearnings, our art. They are maybe ignored, cast away, or found and even treasured before being forgotten like grandmothers and mothers and aborted daughters, and they cross like sparkling crystal of stars through the black universe, hurling into consciousness and lives and thoughts and desperate clawing at art by lonely artists and careless carefree tweets.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

wise words


_ from "Catechism of d Neoamerican Hoodoo Church," a poem by Ishmael Reed.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

taiko vs hip-hop

what does it mean to be Japanese? what does it mean to be American? what is yellow vs. what is black/white? what is Music? what is art? and what does it mean to be human? no easy answers ever but key questions in life and what being an artist is all about.

Taiko with bon odori tune "Hokkai Bon Uta"

Taiko with "Waterfalls" by TLC

Taiko with Snoop Doggy Dogg's "Ain't No Fun"

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Amanojaku concert

Amanojaku at Tokyo FM Hall
"HARU ICHIBAN (Spring Breeze)"

SUN April 18, 2010
3 p.m. (doors open 2:30 p.m.)

Taiko drumming by
Amanojaku leader/composer Yoichi Watanabe
with drummers
Hiromi Ogawa, Isaku Kageyama, Daisuke Watanabe, Hiromi Sekine, Chris Holland,
and guests
Kyosuke Suzuki on fue flutes, Katsunari Sawada on Tsugari shamisen
Amanojaku Hozonkai.

1-7 Kojimachi Chiyoda-ku Tokyo
TEL: 03-3221-0080
3 minute walk from exits 1 and 2 Hanzomon station on the Hanzomon Line.
6 minute walk from exits 1 and 2 Kojimachi station on the Yurakucho Line.

Advance tickets 4,000 yen
Same-day admission 4,500 yen

For tickets, please call Amaonojaku TEL: 03-3904-1745
Ticket Pia (from March 30, 2010)
Pコード:103-507 TEL:0570-02-9999
No reserved seating.

The Sociology of Hanami (flower-watching)

Every year about this time of the year Japanese _ it seems every Japanese brings out big blue sheets of plastic to sit beneath cherry trees.
The practice of planting cheery trees in rows dates back to the Edo Period, where "hanami," or flower-watching, started and is depicted in ukiyoe scrolls.
The springtime party was a big equalizer for a culture dominated by the bustling "iki" merchant class _ so different from the stuck-up somber divisive nobility of the previous eras.
Beneath the trees exploding with blossoms, people sit flat on the ground as equals, eating, singing, talking in big voices, drinking, reveling in their equality, practicality and vulgarity.
The branches are foaming with pale pink blossoms, some petals wafting with their sweet scent likes pieces of chiffon.
In contrast, the food smells bad, poorly made sushi, fried chicken and noodles.
Canned beer is guzzled, and the talking is loud.
Only in a strictly hierarchical society would the symbolic equalizer of hanami be so highly valued.
Japanese thrive on the democratic myth of hanami.
Although the purpose of these gatherings is to look at flowers, no one bothers to ask if anyone is really looking.
It is unclear whether people are just pretending to have a good time or they are really having a good time.
Everyone knows there is no such thing as equality in Japan _ a nation where the dumbest man is superior to the most qualified woman, and status is won by seniority and inheritance and personal ties _ not performance or productivity _ and language and mannerisms are defined by where one stands in strictly defined rankings.
In fact, the lowliest one, like a woman or the newly hired recruit at a company, has to go early and mark out the hanami spot beneath a tree with the blue plastic to make sure no other group takes that spot.
Some equality.
The picnic continues into the night.
Too drunk, some people are barely able to stand.
Lovers of group behavior to the max, Japanese come out in hordes during hanami season, the two weeks or so when the cherry trees are in bloom.
No matter that the crowds sitting, in some parks, right next to each other like a commuter train, are nothing but a blight to the scenic landscape.
If you question hanami, if you are not having the ball of your life, you are not a true Japanese.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

who is the poet? a poem by Yuri Kageyama

who is the poet?
a poem by Yuri Kageyama

poets who pause to pontificate
poets who write for grants
poets who count syllables
poets who admire texture of words
i work and have no time
and i have no time for
poets who have all the time
poets who find poetic moments
poets who teach laureate poetry
poets who chatter on Facebook
it is blood in the veins
to kill and give birth and die
i am the true poet, not you
i am the true poet, not you
poets of the revolution
poets weeping tears at bars
poets who don't write lyrics
poets of pure soundless music
angels of suicide
bridge of neon, cliff of ice
we are the true poets, not you
we are the true poets, not you

message to marry

Hi Marry
You left a very nice comment on my previous post, but I deleted it by mistake.
Thanks for being so supportive of my writing.
It would have been great to add your words to this whole effort.
Lots of love,

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Terumasa Hino

Terumasa Hino with Toshiko Akiyoshi at Lake Biwa in 1986.

Sometimes there are moments in life that make an artist feel it was all worth it.
It helps when an older and more experienced artist is willing to give of him/herself and encourage a younger and less experienced artist _ giving assurance there is nothing to be afraid of, that all you have to do is be yourself.
Isaku felt just that last night _ with trumpet legend Terumasa Hino, of all people.
At a benefit for Haiti earthquake survivors, Hino casually picked up his trumpet, started playing his horn impromptu, its ring like a greeting, surprising Isaku from behind, but joining him in music, playfully chatting with Isaku's drumming, telling him there is nothing to be afraid of, that all you have to do is be yourself.
Unlike some aspects of life, dictated by shallow rules of winning vs. losing, where petty minds pursue a zero-sum game, and the whole and the sum of its parts only negate each other into shameless nothingness, music is the pure joy of life, where the sound that is wholeness is far more beautiful than the sum of its parts.
For just a few fun moments, jazz and taiko met.

Terumasa Hino at the Budokan in Tokyo 1992.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

At One With Brazil

Amanojaku's Yoichi Watanabe and Isaku Kageyama are now in Brazil to share the joy of taiko.
"Kizuna" was co-written by Watanabe and the late Daihachi Oguchi of Osuwa Daiko for the 100th anniversary of Japanese immigration to Brazil, celebrated June 21,
2008 by a performance of 1,000 Brazilian taiko drummers.
The first four minutes of the piece is trademark Oguchi, and then the song breaks into Amanojaku-style taiko that is totally and distinctly Watanabe.
Below is video of a group in Brazil performing "Kizuna" in December:

And this is the same song performed by Amanojaku and students in Japan:

Amanojaku traveled to Brazil 6 times during 2004-2008, teaching more than 600 Japanese-Brazilian youngsters.
The performance was attended by 37,000 people, including Crown Prince Naruhito.
"Kizuna" means "bond" in Japanese _ what is in our heritage and our blood that transcends boundaries and the passage of time to connect people in spirit.
Amanojaku has continued to go to Brazil to teach in 2009 _ and now in 2010.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Amanojaku at Sogetsu Hall

Amanojaku concert at Sogetsu Hall in Tokyo Dec. 8, 2009.
"Kaiun" by Yoichi Watanabe, performed by (from left to right) Daisuke Watanabe, Isaku Kageyama, Yoichi Watanabe and Hiromi Ogawa.