My songwriting _ “Oh My Buddha” and “I Will Bleed”

Two of my songs in this new album

my songwriting

“Oh My Buddha” and “I Will Bleed,” two songs I co-wrote with Hiroshi Tokieda and Tea, are part of this great album that just came out (October 2017).
“Oh My Buddha” (audio of an earlier reading in the link) is an Asian take on what we often say: “Oh My God,” something that Toshinori Kondo pointed out some time back as what we should be saying as Asians.
And so I imagined what it would have been like to have been married to a great man like Buddha.
It might have not been as wonderful as it might seem.
Tea and I were talking about how fun it would be to write a pop song that was inspired by an Indian theme.
And so this is what we did.
I even rap or read my poem in the recording _ woooh la la !!

OH MY BUDDHA
_ a song about faith, love and other things
By Yuri Kageyama

REPEATING THEME:
My name is Yasodhara
Wife of Buddha
Mother of Rahula
I ride a white elephant
I am Siddharta’s woman

VERSE 1
You took off to find Nirvana
Became a hero for the poor
You just took off one sunny day
And found enlightenment
While I’m stuck in the kitchen
Barefoot and pregnant, alone

(Repeat theme)

VERSE 2
You’ve started a religion
See statues in your likeness
Of gold and bronze and wood
Sitting prim on that lotus
While I’m having your babies
Feeding them, aborting them, alone

(Repeat theme)

VERSE 3
You remember I cooked you breakfast?
So you could go and contemplate
Sitting 49 days under the Bodhi tree
To discover, sacrifice, meditate?
While I’m crying in my misery
Breathing my prayers, alone

(Repeat theme)

REFRAIN
You’re a superstar
I’m a nobody
You live in history
I die unknown
When I awoke
There was no sign of you
When I awoke
There was no sign of you
My universe went up in smoke
My universe went up in smoke
Oh, my Buddha
Oh, my Buddha

I am planning a music video, and I have asked Toshinori “Toshichael” Tani to come up with choreography.
He will dance in the video, which I will film.

“I Will Bleed,” to me, evokes a lot of things _ abortion, miscarriage, birth, heartbeat, love, death.
Love is such a powerful force it is both horrible and awful.
My poem is about that horror, inspired by the double suicides of Chikamatsu, which highlight how the puppets, in death, are able to transcend how miserable, human and lowly they were before that moment of death.
That beauty to me is about the kind of love that crosses boundaries, overcoming racism and other small, discriminatory, confining preconceptions.
It speaks of the potential of our human condition.
I wrote the poem for Hiroshi and Tea.
But it is a poem for all lovers, and the hope love will overcome hate around the world, through the purification of our bleeding.

Toshinori Kondo _ a poem by Yuri Kageyama

Toshinori Kondo
A Poem
By Yuri Kageyama

shrieks growls wails moaning jagged cries that tell stories of the urban jungle wire and metal untamed animal half machine bleeding real blood never stops a never-ending pulse guerilla warfare of free music of onomatopoeia like a snake or a frog whose skin is always wet

Toshinori Kondo Blows the Earth _ and More


May 13, 2009 was an important day for our son and taiko drummer Isaku Kageyama.
He played with Japanese jazz trumpeter Toshinori Kondo at the Kuonji Temple up high in the Minobu mountains _ a spot close to the sky, filled with green, air and playfully warbling “uguisu” nightingales and looking so much like a brush painting with mushroom-shaped trees you’d expect God to come down any moment.
Kondo takes the crowd on a journey _ part pilgrimage seeking salvation, part exploration of a multicultural artist’s emotions, sometimes gut-wrenching rage, sometimes sheer ecstasy.
He plays over several electronic soundtracks that have been worked out in advance for tunes, each of which expresses Kondo’s thoughts about the earth’s place in the universe, Japan’s place in the world of self-expression, and the individual’s plight and mission within that planet and place.
Kondo has always explored his Japanese roots and forged a Japanese sound.
But he has also always kept his eyes on what goes beyond race/nationality/genres _ looking for answers in the cosmic.
Taiko with jazz trumpet and a DJ track is a combination that’s a bit unexpected.
But it worked _ splendidly.
It was something I had never seen before but yet it seemed the most natural thing to be experiencing.
In one segment, Kondo told the audience he did a collaboration sometime back with artists that included Nobuyoshi Araki and Seitaro Kuroda for an anniversary of the dropping of the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima.
He said they were moved that the people of Hiroshima referred to the A-bomb as “Pikadon,” an onomatopoeia alluding to the “flash” or “flick” of blazing light and the “boom” or “bang” of its lethal sound.
A Westerner would certainly have injected some outrage or maliciousness and called it what it deserved: a mother-fucking etc. … Kondo said.
But the people of Hiroshima just called it Pikadon.
“We found this extremely moving,” he said.
The Japanese language is filled with onomatopoeia.
That’s why some people think the Japanese language is “primitive.”
But I don’t think so, he said.
The Japanese language is very beautiful and musical, and Earth is a very musical planet filled with the sounds of the birds, insects and the wind, according to Kondo.
And he goes into song.
There is never a dull moment.
And it’s never the same.
Isaku felt the joy of sharing such a stage.
Kondo was generous and motioned politely to hand him solo spots. He even told the audience “Kageyama-kun” is nervous and this is the first time we’ve performed together but isn’t he doing a pretty good job?
That evening, Isaku followed Kondo on that journey, every step of the way.
He didn’t pull his leg, and he didn’t tumble down any crevice.
And he was happy.
But looking back, he wants more, he says.
What he wants now is to grow as a musician so he will be able to add something of his own to that trip.
It’s a beginning, and the endeavor will be long and arduous.
But as Kondo says, it is a joy _ just to be born.
And to be playing with Kondo _ that’s nothing but bliss.

Toshinori Kondo

“Oh, my Buddha!” was what Toshinori Kondo kept saying.
That was back in the 1980s, when he was in his IMA band stage, fresh from his return from New York, where he had built his fame, and now out to forge his own Japanese jazz sound.
Instead of looking to the West (as in “Oh, my God!”), a musician must look to his/her Asian roots (and start saying, “Oh, my Buddha!” instead).
He was one of the most fascinating people I have ever interviewed.
Maybe he felt sorry for me that our interview was about to end, and I could have been in his presence forever.
He began to clown around and disappeared into the narrow crevice between the wall and a soda vending machine.
“Oh, my Buddha!”
I don’t know why, but this was terribly and perfectly charming.
In his recent book “Inochi wa Sokkyo da (Life Is Improvisation),” Kondo says he studied the lives of Buddhist monks and spiritual leaders when he was younger to find out for himself what made Japanese and Japanese thinking great.
Otherwise, he couldn’t feel confident that, as a Japanese artist, he would have something unique or competitive to say in the world of jazz, dominated by Americans.
The Buddhists all led pretty wild and crazy lives, it turns out, fasting, becoming hermits, wandering penniless, chanting in a frenzy.
Best of all, they had a unique view on the meaning of life and spirituality, which remains key to Kondo’s approach to music today.
Kondo wasn’t satisfied with the Japanese music scene, despite his great success, because it was so insular and it wasn’t trying to say anything universal.
He was hectically busy.
But artistically, he felt he was going nowhere fast.
This is when he started living in Amsterdam, partly to get away and collect his thoughts.
In recent years, he began his “Blow the Earth” project, in which he goes to forsaken but gorgeous places like Machu Picchu and Bali and basically plays his heart out.
No one is there to listen.
He feels at one with the Nature around him as though the pulse in the mountain air is beating in time with his blowing, down to the tiniest pulses in every cell of his body.
It is a true high.
This is about getting to the music that is the origin of life.
It is totally divorced from the usual assumptions about music _ how its success is calculated by how many CDs you sell _ about trying to commercially reach hordes.
One time, Kondo travels to Kenya with a Japanese camera crew and wades into a lake filled with flamingos and pelicans.
Be sure to roll the cameras when I start playing, he says. Thousands of birds are going to take flight. And it will be beautiful.
He starts to blow.
But the birds don’t take off.
They just start to dance.
Why are young Japanese so worried? Kondo wonders in his book.
And they aren’t even worried about what might happen decades from now.
They worry about what might happen next year, tomorrow.
They are so privileged yet they are so afraid.
He was never so afraid.
He kept going for half a century and has never turned back and is still going.
My son plays with this very important Japanese musician WED May 13 at a temple near Mount Fuji.