Amanojaku in the Media: Daily Yomiuri "1,000 taiko drummers drumming"

Article by Steve McClure printed in the Daily Yomiuri on February 15.

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Learning how to teach

Aside from the 100th Anniversary music we've been teaching in Marilia, we've also been conducting 5th Degree Nippon Taiko Foundation Examinations.

The entry level exams we have been conducting in Marilia test drummers on basic knowledge of music and the history of taiko.

The exams present a high-pressure situation for the kids, because they must perform a piece perfectly as adults, peers and instructors look on.

Today, a boy who had trouble reading music could not perform the piece without making mistakes here and there. One by one, his peers passed the examinations until he was the only one left.

Watanabe Sensei put peers on either side of him so that he could follow them, and told the boy to play the piece again.

The boy, who was now teary-eyed, still could not play the piece.

Sensei shouted "Stop crying! You're almost there," and started the piece again.

The entire room was filled with tension, as everyone prayed. All of us wanted him to play the music perfectly.

After he finished playing, Sensei said "Congratulations! Muito bon!" and his friends ran over to him, hugging and patting him on the back. The boy could not hold back his tears.

Teaching taiko is not only about improving technique. It's about life experiences that will help the kids to be better people. It's about learning things that will help the kids succeed in whatever path they choose to take in life.

We hope the boy gained confidence in himself. We hope he learned that if you stick with something, good things will happen. And we hope all of us in the room learned something about kindness and caring for others.

As teachers, we try to teach these core values - but that is easier said than done. Today I got to see Watanabe Sensei work his magic, so that someday I may work my own.
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Kizuna in Marilia

"Kizuna" is the title of the piece we've been teaching in Marilia, Brazil for the past two days.

The piece will be played in uinison by 1000 drummers at Skol Anhembi Arena on June 21, 2008 to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Japanese immigration to Brazil.

As you can imagine, an event like this is going to present more problems than one can possibly think of:

Will we have 1000 players?
Provided we have 1000 players, will there be enough drums for them to play?
Provided we are able to find 1000 drums, how will we return them to their respective owners after the performance?
Will 1000 people be able to play the music in unison and still sound good?

Event organizers always try to plan ahead and anticipate problems before they occur. The bigger the event, the more problems there are, and that means more planning and thinking beforehand.

We're here in Marilia to make sure the 1000 drummers playing in unison sound good. It's a challenge, but challenges are always opportunities to grow!
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2007 Brazilian Taiko Championship

Taiko in Brazil is driven by the National Taiko Championship, which takes place in Sao Paulo once a year. A total of 28 groups took part in this year’s competition, with over 1200 loudly cheering spectators packing the venue. It’s quite a sight, and an amazing feeling to be with so many people who love and support taiko.

2007 was a year of great leaps for Brazilian taiko. This year, I was impressed by the improvement each group showed in composition – as well as their improved technique. The improved compositions made me especially happy because it means the kids are starting to use their technique to express themselves through taiko, perhaps the most important aspect of art and music.

These improvements brought to light new areas that need work. I noticed that all the groups were using their technique to play extremely fast. Playing fast looks cool, but it is so much more important to swing, groove, and make your audience feel good.

It’s important that the kids mature and become better people, as opposed to simply becoming better taiko drummers. Maturity and emotional growth are an important part of what allows players to make their audience feel good. As adults, we need to try our best to provide a healthy, nurturing environment in which they can learn and grow. We’ll be teaching in Marilia tomorrow, and hope to do our share.
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"Saiko" a Contemporary Japanese Music Showcase

先日、"Best Japanese Albums"と言う記事に協力させて頂きました。 在日外国人音楽ライターが中心となり、YMOから宇多田まで色んなアーティストが選べれていました。

来週の月曜日、この記事にちなんだイベントが行われるそうです。 詳しくはチラシをご覧下さい:

ちなみに僕のお勧めアルバムは武満徹氏の秋庭歌一具でした。 外国でも認められた事や、和洋のコラボレーションがとても知的な感じで行われたのが好きな理由です。

"Saiko" a Contemporary Japanese Music Showcase

Want to learn more about Japanese music? Saiko is a free evening listening session devoted exclusively to introducing the best in Japanese sounds.

Featuring the “Best Japanese Albums” DJ all-stars spinning cutting-edge J-pop, J-rock, J-hip-hop, Japa-reggae, Shibuya-kei, kayou-rock, oriental rock, hogaku, chindon, anime, idoru-kei, group sounds, onkyo, garage, noise, electronica, jazz, avant-garde, and more…

—With a panel discussion about who will make it in the West—

Presented by Dan Grunebaum (Music Editor, Metropolis magazine) and Jon Lynch (Publisher, Juice magazine)

7-8pm: All request happy hour—bring in your Japanese music!
8-9pm: Panel discussion
9-12pm: Japanese music listening session

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Best Japanese Albums: Metropolis #686 May 18, 2007

Check out the "Best Japanese Albums" in this week's issue of Metropolis, where sixteen writers, musicians and music industry types describe their encounters with great Japanese records.

Click on the link below to read Isaku Kageyama's recommendation.

Click here for full article
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Two Down, One to Go

We're back in Sao Paulo after workshops in Sao Jose do Rio Preto and Maringa. 229 and 131 people participated in the workshops respectively, so it's been a lot of work but very rewarding as well. Our next stop, Sorocaba, will have the most participants, so we'll be looking forward to that.

My job here has been teaching "Kizuna" - the piece the kids will be playing at ceremonies commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Japanese Immigration to Brazil.

My teacher - Watanabe Sensei is able to make learning taiko fun by incorporating games and contests into the curriculum. I try to do keep the learning fun - and teach the kids about respect, teamwork, and hard work as well.

Learning taiko shouldn't be just about improving one's technique - it's about becoming a better person. Now that's a lesson the kids can keep for a lifetime!

Of course the kids aren't going to learn these lessons by having me tell them so. They're going to learn them by working really hard at playing taiko, and experiencing the good and the bad that comes with working hard at something.

As a taiko drummer, I want that "something" to be taiko - and that's why I work hard at getting the kids to work hard.
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Hello from Sao Paulo


Bon dia! I'm writing this from a hotel room in Sao Jose do Rio Preto in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Today we'll be teaching the kids "Kizuna" a piece written by Oguchi Daihachi, which will celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Japanese Immigration to Brazil.

“Kizuna” will be played by 1000 drummers in unison. Click here for more details.

It’s my third time here in Brazil, and Sao Paulo is starting to feel like a second home. The road signs have developed stories behind them and the shabby billboards remind me of colorful events that took place during my stay.
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Concert Tickets are SOLD OUT!

Concert tickets to see Amanojaku on December 19, 2006 are SOLD OUT.

Door tickets are NOT available.

If you have already purchased a ticket - we look forward to seeing you at the concert.

If you haven't gotten ahold of a ticket, you can always catch us next time, and of course you can catch us on DVD.

Thank you always for your support.

Isaku Kageyama
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Amanojaku Concert: SOLD OUT

Concert Tickets are Sold Out

Tickets to see Amanojaku at the Nerima Bunka Center are sold out.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support, as well as apologize to those who will not be able to see us play.

Thank you always for your support,

Isaku Kageyama
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Metropolis December 1, 2006 issue


Read about the upcoming Amanojaku concert in this week's issue of Metropolis:


The article discusses

1. The history of taiko in a concert setting
2. Amanojaku's message
3. What taiko means to Japanese and expatriate Japanese
4. Ther emergence of female taiko pioneers
5. About the concert
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Music for the Deaf

November 30, 2006
For Immediate Release

Music for the Deaf
Leading Japanese Drum Ensemble Invites Deaf Children to Concert

(TOKYO) Amanojaku, one of the world’s most respected taiko (Japanese drum) ensembles, is inviting deaf children and their families, totaling about 20 people, to the group’s 20th Anniversary concert. Deaf people may not be able to hear the sounds of a flute, violin, or saxophone, but they can certainly feel and appreciate the booming beat and dance-like choreography of taiko.

In 2003, Amanojaku performed for deaf audiences and led workshops at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and Gallaudette University in Washington DC. Later that year, the group conducted a workshop for the deaf community in Denver, Colorado.

“It is an honor to give children an opportunity to experience music in a new way,” said Amanojaku leader Yoichi Watanabe. “The combination of sound and movement that is unique to taiko allows us as taiko drummers to give back to the community that has supported us for 20 years.”

Amanojaku 20th Anniversary Concert “Soul Beat”
Place: Nerima Bunka Center TEL: 03-3993-3311
Date and Time: December 19, 2006 Tuesday at 19:00
Doors open at 18:30
Ticket Prices: Advance Tickets: JPY 5,000 Door Tickets: JPY 5,500
All seats are non-reserved
Ticket Sales: Ticket Pia – http://pia.jp/t P-Code: 243-508
TEL: 0570-02-9999 or 0570-02-9990
Contact Amanojaku − http://amanojaku.info
TEL: 03-3904-1745 FAX: 03-3904-9434

About Amanojaku − http://amanojaku.info

Amanojaku’s sound integrates traditional Japanese rhythms with modern and world influences. The group has toured over 40 nations, including Thailand (‘06), the United
States (’05) and Brazil (’04). Leader Yoichi Watanabe has been designated a Special Advisor for Cultural Exchange by the Japanese government and frequently travels to the US and Brazil to teach the unique Amanojaku style.

Contact: Isaku Kageyama
TEL: 03-3904-1745 FAX: 03-3904-9434

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Hear Amanojaku on the iTunes Music Store

September 4, 2006
For Immediate Release

Hear Amanojaku on the iTunes Music Store

(TOKYO) Amanojaku, one of the world’s most respected taiko (Japanese drum) ensembles, released six of the group’s trademark pieces for online purchase on the iTunes Music Store. (http://www.apple.com/jp/itunes/)

“We’ve always wanted to make our music more accessible, especially to people overseas, and the Internet has provided us with a great opportunity,” said Yoichi Watanabe, who founded Amanojaku in 1986.

Individual songs cost JPY 150 ($0.99 in the US) and the entire album “Soul Beat” can be purchased for JPY 1,500 ($9.99). Among the songs is “Kagura,” a piece that contains an expansive vocabulary of global percussion, from Japanese festival music to Latin rhythmical patterns. Another is “Bujin,” which conveys the choreographical moves, staccato rhythms and selfless courage of samurai swordsmen, a work that is exemplary of the pioneering Amanojaku sound.

About Amanojaku − http://amanojaku.info

Amanojaku’s sound features a distinctive modernity combined with traditional techniques. The group has toured over 40 nations, including Thailand (‘06), the United States (’05) and Brazil (’04). Amanojaku has performed at the prestigious Japanese National Theatre four times.


Isaku Kageyama
5-9-11-101 Minami Tanaka Nerima-ku Tokyo, Japan
TEL: +81 (0)3-3904-1745 FAX: +81 (0)3-3904-9434
E-Mail: isaku.kageyama@amanojaku.info

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Thank you: Lynn Hammonds


Many thanks to Lynn for dropping by and leaving us this message:

I am in Tokyo as a visiting teacher with the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund’s Master Teacher Program, working on a joint project to be conducted in 2006-07 between Japanese and American schools. The project includes science, engineering, Japanese language and cultural arts components, working toward understanding between our countries via the children.

The Fulbright program has given access to many wonderful places, but one of the highlights of my stay was joining Amanojaku’s student group practice last Wednesday night. When I realized that Watanabe Sensei was leading the practice I was a bit nervous, wondering if someone of his status in the taiko world would be willing to have a student at my level join in. Sensei’s warm smile, sense of humor and encouragement made me immediately at ease, and I played harder (and longer!) than I have in quite a while.

The drills on the shime were a great way to begin class, and putting odaiko phrases together to form a longer drill was a wonderful way to challenge the memory (especially for my 50+ year old brain!), as well as endurance.

The members of the group, which I was glad to see were at various levels, were welcoming and helpful, coaching on the more difficult phrases and generously offering their place at the drum for each drill. I look forward to another visit and to going home to practice, practice, practice!
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Introducing Dave Mahoney

Dave dropped by our practice and really showed some heart and soul. Dave is a web designer, and his site features some really impressive work.



From Dave:

I had an amazing time participating in practice with Amanojaku. These guys rock! Sensei is a great leader as well as the group is very friendly and talented. I learned so much just from watching and listening, and then trying to apply that to my own practice. Good fun and VERY VERY inspiring!

Thank you Dave, and we hope to see you soon!

Isaku Kageyama
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Introducing Rachel Mock

Rachel is a 14 year old high school student, who has been playing taiko since the age of 8. She dropped by our Odaiko practice, and really stood up to the challenge.


From Rachel:

Thank you so much for the opportunity to practice with such an amazing taiko group! Everyone was so inspirational, and really made me feel like i was at home. It really was an experience like no other. While it was challangeling, i had lots of fun.

The practice really made me dig deep down and find strength i never knew i had. Thank you so much for your help with everything, and i hope to see Amanojaku on tour soon!

Thank you Rachel for dropping by, and we hope to see you when we tour the Bay Area!

Isaku Kageyama

Click Here Learn about Amanojaku in English (PDF)
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About Composing Music

Q: How does Watanabe Sensei compose new pieces? What are some tips I can use in order to write a good composition? (Tokyo, male, Age: 24)

A: I use two approaches when composing pieces. The first, choreography-based composition, is where the sound and rhythms are based on the choreography. The second is sound-based composition, where the choreography is derived from the beats and rhythms.

Also, it's important to have a theme. If your theme is "Dotou" (angry waves), you need an image - for example of how a drop of water becomes a river, and how that river runs into an ocean. Or, you might imagine giant waves like the ones you see in Kujyukuri or Hawaii.

Also, when composing, I always try to incorporate "Johakyu," (see *1) or musical structure, into the image I have.

Although the composer's image is very important, it's also important to keep your audience in mind. Always remember, listening to good music feels good. You want your audience to feel something positive - such as excitement or emotional movement - when they hear your piece, so try to get as many opinions by showing your piece to as many people as possible.

"Rome wasn't built in a day," and the same thing applies here. You're probably not going to complete a piece overnight. Hammering out the rough edges can take months, and building the fundamentals necessary to play a piece can take years.

In order to compose good music, you need a strong belief in yourself, but you also need good fundamental technique. Most of all, it's important to really know yourself when composing.

Learn about yourself, believe in yourself, work on your fundamentals, and keep at it!

*1 "Johayku" is a word used to describe the format of many traditional Japanese art forms such as Noh, Gagaku, Shamisen, etc.

The word "Johakyu" is written using three characters, jo, ha, and kyu that mean "beginning," "destruction," and "fast." In this particular case, Jo (beginning) is used to mean an introduction. Ha (destruction) means expansion, and Kyu (fast) means closure.

Simply put, "Johakyu" means a beginning, a middle and an end.
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