the younger members of Amanojaku a taiko group in Tokyo
from left to right:
Chris Holland, Isaku Kageyama, Daisuke Watanabe, Hiromi Sekine.
Winchester Nii Tete and Isaku Kageyama at Shinjuku Takanoya in Tokyo.
Children of music. Music is power. Music is spirit.
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.
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.
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
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.
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”
SUN April 18, 2010
3 p.m. (doors open 2:30 p.m.)
Taiko drumming by
Amanojaku leader/composer Yoichi Watanabe
Hiromi Ogawa, Isaku Kageyama, Daisuke Watanabe, Hiromi Sekine, Chris Holland,
Kyosuke Suzuki on fue flutes, Katsunari Sawada on Tsugari shamisen
1-7 Kojimachi Chiyoda-ku Tokyo
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)
No reserved seating.
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.
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.