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.

Winchester Nii Tete and Isaku Kageyama

This and more Good Music FRI Nov. 14 at Buddy.

Talking Taiko Again


The Talking Drum takes an innovative turn when Isaku Kageyama, of Tokyo “taiko” _ or Japanese traditional drumming _ ensemble Amanojaku, gets together with Winchester Nii Tete, master percussionist from the Addy-Amo-Boye families of Ghana, for some serious heart-to-heart exchange in the universal language of music.

Isaku is my real-life son, and Winchester is dear to me like my son.
They have so much in common.
They are about the same age (in their 20s), both still man-child, grappling with the challenges of life.
They have both been playing music since they were children, and music is their passion and their life.
It’s fascinating for me to see how the rhythms blend and form counterpoints to each other.

Isaku puts it like this: the music is like “a conversation between two friends, with jokes, laughter _ questions and answers.”

I thank God Isaku has met someone like Winchester.
Artists are alone.
But they need peers _ fellow spirits.
Artists can endure all if they know at least one other artist he/she respects thinks what you’re doing is pretty darn good.
And collaborating with Winchester gives you all that and more.

Daisuke Watanabe, also in his 20s, and son of Amanojaku leader and master composer Yoichi Watanabe, on taiko joins the Conversation.

Their first-ever collaboration “raibu” is at Ekoda BUDDY Friday, November 14.
20:00 (Doors open 19:00)
TEL: 03-3953-1152
Futaba Kaikan B2F Asahigaoka 1-77-8 Nerima-ku 177-0005
3,000 yen admission.
For more information, call 090-8506-9885, or e-mail Isaku at isaku.kageyama@amanojaku.info

Reading Sunday, Sept. 28 in Tokyo

We are doing a reading with music later this month at a place called Bunga near Ogikubo station (Chuo Line) starting 6:30 p.m. (Poster design by Annette Dorfman/Winchester photo by Takashi Itoh)

Poet YURI KAGEYAMA and percussionist WINCHESTER NII TETE present “TALKING TAIKO,” a multicultural evening of the spoken word with music that challenges the boundaries of continents, genres and generations.

Yuri Kageyama’s poetry and short fiction have appeared in many literary publications, including “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” and “MultiAmerica.” 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, “Pow-Wow: 63 Writers Address the Fault Lines in the American Experience.” She has a book of poems, “Peeling” (I. Reed Press). 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 has performed with the Ghana national troupe, Sachi Hayasaka, Yoshio Harada, Takasitar, Naoki Kubojima, Tsuyoshi Furuhashi and many other artists. His repertoire is expansive, including jazz, hip-hop, reggae, pop and world music. Besides playing original compositions with poetry, he will deliver a taste of his exuberant, refined and eclectic sound with guest musicians and his students. 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.

Winchester Nii Tete and Yuri Kageyama met in Tokyo last year and have been working on collaborative pieces. Director Yoshiaki Tago (“Believer,” “Worst Contact”) joins as another collaborator in filming “Talking Taiko.”

Poetry and Percussion next month

Poster by Annette Dorfman
SUNDAY Sept. 28 6:30 p.m.

Poet YURI KAGEYAMA and percussionist WINCHESTER NII TETE present “TALKING TAIKO,” a multicultural evening of the spoken word with music that challenges the boundaries of continents, genres and generations.

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Winchester Nii Tete hails from a famous family of drummers in Ghana. And Tokyo is so lucky to have him.
His playing is energetic, joyous, dignified, virtuous.
Behind him is Teruyuki Kawabata, leader of Cigarette She Was , a composer/lyricist who plays the guitar, percussion and other instruments.
On his right is Keiji Kubo, a language expert who totally respects aboriginal culture, and plays the bass/didgeridoo.
On Winchester’s left is Haruna Shimizu, also with Cigarette She Was, who someday wants to have her own cafe-on-wheels.
I get in a lecture mood when I hang out with such talented pure-spirited people.
I have told Winchester he has beautiful eyes.
I have told Teruyuki his “Jounetsu wo torimodosou” is a great song.
I have told Keiji his girlfriend Akiko is “KawaYUUUUUI!”
And so, at the Pit Inn in Shinjuku, the other night, I told Haruna she must stick with the man she chooses to love because loving someone isn’t about weighing the pro’s and con’s to get a good deal.
Too many Japanese women are still waiting for that deal _ like they are prizes to be won.
Love is not something you receive from someone else. It is all and only about your Self.
It’s a lifelong battle _ like Art and Life.
Love endures through tick and thin, through sickness and health, through the good times and the bad.

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