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Wadaiko from East to West: An Overview of Contemporary Japanese Drumming in the World Today

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[Disclaimer: This paper is in working progress] In the post-WWII days in Japan, a new form of drumming stemmed out of traditions to incorporate new ideas and modern elements. This was the birth of the contemporary wadaiko. Today, its popularity
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    1 Wadaiko  from East to West: Contemporary Japanese Drumming in the World Today The significance of wadaiko  in todayÕs world: [É] our music and message resonates with myriad cultures and ways of life.  ÑKod ! , Japan Sticking to one task until the end.  ÑSan Francisco Taiko Dojo, USA To Beat with every muscle, bone and sinew in our bodies, with an open and  joyous spirit.  Ñ  TaikOz, Australia Limitless reverberationÉ  ÑMugenkyo, UK Power, passion, artistry and Oriental grace; Japanese taiko drumming is an amazing experience to behold.  ÑWai Taiko, New Zealand Freude, Kraft, Musik, Gruppe, Ausdruck, Ausdauer, Bewegung, Sport 1   ÑAmaterasu-Taiko, Germany Religioso | Art’stico | Militar | Comunal 2   ÑTesei Taiko Factory, Argentina  Introduction In recent years the world has witnessed a burgeoning of wadaiko [  ]  (or taiko  /-daiko [  ] )   groups and activities across the globe. The success of wadaiko  today is the result of a rather intricate combination of factors, intentions and needs. Today, many people from varied backgrounds and social standings are drawn to the modern rendition of traditional Japanese drumming, either by joining or forming groups, or appreciating the new art form as audience. This has consequently led to a myriad of diversified performances both in Japan and worldwide. While many groups maintain a somewhat distinctive ÔJapaneseÕ or ÔtraditionalÕ style, others create new experiments with wadaiko  by extending beyond. However it may appear to be, wadaiko now in fact caters for a diversity of people around the world with various cultural and social readjustments. It is not uncommon to see wadaiko  being fused with diversified cultural elements .  As for the question of it being ÔtraditionalÕ, wadaiko  is still a 1  English translation: Joy, Power, Music, Group, Expression, Perseverance, Movement, Sport. 2  English translation: Religious, Artistic, Military, Communal.   The term taiko  simply means Ôfat (big) drumÕ and the prefix wa  is attached to denote the ÔJapanesenessÕ. For clarification, the term wadaiko  will be used throughout this paper to indicate Ô contemporary Japanese drumming  Õ, except in citations.    2 youthful product of the reinvention or renovation of traditional drumming. The  popularity and success achieved by wadaiko  are partly the result of trends in conserving traditional elements with modern interpretations and partly enhanced by recent waves of renewed  Japonism .   Drumming had never held a centre-stage role in musical performance until after WWII. Kobayashi Kenji, who heads the Asakusa-based drum-making establishment Miyamoto Unosuke Sh ! ten [  est. 1861 ] indicates also in an interview that, ÔThe long-body taiko [  ] has only been recently recognised as a musical instrument. [É] it is now in a transitional  period, transforming from a tool [of communication] into a musical instrument [É]Õ 5  (Narabe 2004: 68). This paper will thus take a brief look at when and how todayÕs wadaiko  came into  being, and examine to what extent it has developed within todayÕs globalising world. Established facts about the creation of this modern culture will be briefly discussed in section 1 to provide a general look at the background. While a diversity of discussions and researches on wadaiko have hitherto been done both in Japan and in North America in the form of either academic writing, anecdotal personal accounts, or magazine and newspaper articles, most tend to focus only on a single region or the cultural exchange between that region and Japan. Through further research it became clear that wadaiko culture has permeated into many corners of the world. Part 2 of this  paper, while not claiming to be comprehensive or conclusive, will present a general analysis of the roots of contemporary wadaiko  culture and its extent of influence globally. 1. The (re)birth of wadaiko   The srcin of Japanese drumming, as commonly introduced, date back some 2,000 years. Nevertheless, todayÕs wadaiko culture spans only a little more than half a century; it is more a post-war creation than it is a direct offspring of traditional drumming. In order to attain an overview of how wadaiko was created and developed to reach its popularity today, an array of materials ranging from books, academic  papers, articles from miscellaneous media, official websites, pamphlets to concert  programs and email correspondence were used for reference. For the making of wadaiko  we shall begin by examining the historical background in both Japan and  North America. 1.1. Japan 1943 Ð The Rickshaw Man 6  The earliest sign of the emergence of wadaiko  in Japan has been traced back to the 1943 film The Rickshaw Man , as discussed by Mogi (2003: 140-44).   The movie apparently made a profound impact on many Japanese people, so popular that it sparked several remakes in 1958, 1963 and 1965. The part of the film central to the discussion of this paper is that of a matsuri   [  ]  (festival) scene featuring the  protagonist Matsugor  !  playing the main taiko that was being carried among the many   Renewed interests in Japanese cultural aspects both in Japan and overseas. 5  English translation is my own; srcinal Japanese text:   [É]  [É]   6    Muh ! matsu no issh !   [  ], directed by Inagaki Hiroshi [  ] and released by Daiei Studios [  ]).    3 floats. As no one at the festival could play the Japanese drum, Matsugor  !  could not resist the urge to demonstrate how the drum was meant to be played. The image of Matsugor  ! Õs vigorous performance became popular because it resonated in post-war Japan a sense of yearning for something Japanese and traditional, as opposed to the increasingly westernizing Japan under American occupation. The costume worn by Matsugor  !  and many other details pertaining to his  playing of the drum are said to have left visible marks on the subsequent wadaiko  groups that appeared between the 1950s and 1970s, paving way to the wadaiko  culture as we know today and leading to further interest in both traditional and contemporary Japanese drumming thereafter (Mogi 2003: 138-142, Izumi lecture 2008). The apparently overwhelming success of the film and its later remakes led to the appreciation of drumming in two forms: the broadcasted traditional drumming on stage thanks to also the availability of the television in the 1950s   and a number of  pioneer groups that created contemporary wadaiko  as we know today. According to The Asano foundation for Taiko Culture Research, 1946 was the year when Japan witnessed the revival of many matsuri daiko [  festival drums/drumming ] across the nation (20002: 40). Thereafter, numerous events sprung out subsequently and provided the Japanese more opportunities to experience the encapsulating effects of taiko drumming. Different strands of Japanese drumming culture that exist today can be generally classified as follows: I. Traditional Ñ 1. Religious music [Buddhist and Shinto rituals and ceremonies] 2. Court music [ Gagaku ] 3. Stage music [  Kabuki ,  N  ! ] II. Contemporary Ñ 4. Creative drumming as stage performance   For the fourth group, the subject of this paper, three further types can be defined as follows   (Mogi 2003: 148): 1. Traditional drumming as stage performance; 2. Amateur Creative Drumming; 3. Professional Creative Drumming. It is rather difficult to place a distinctive categorization on any wadaiko  group, as most groups today may include a mixture of elements from other strands; for instance, amateurs joining a professional group, member from a professional group detach to form another group to train amateurs, traditional groups catching on the new drumming styles or new groups incorporating traditional elements in their  performance. It is also important to note that wadaiko  groups influence one another and fuse various elements to enhance performance; even local drumming today has gained more attention thanks to the popularity brought on by the new drumming styles. Today it is difficult to find many wadaiko groups that can claim to be purely ÔtraditionalÕ and ÔJapaneseÕ, unless it is a traditional taiko  group already established  prior to WWII and/or one that strictly inherits local traditions, such as the   Mogi (2003: 147-150) discusses the influential effect of television, which gave traditional folk cultures in Japan an opportunity for nation-wide exposure. For the first time, local cultures such as drumming, which is a diversified performing art with varied significance and styles across the archipelago, were being presented to the nation, thereby boosting the popularity Japanese drumming was already enjoying since the success of The Rickshaw Man .    4 400-year-old drum-making establishment Asano Taiko [    est. 1609 ] ,    yet even such establishments often adopt modern wadaiko  elements as well.   1951 Ð The birth of wadaiko  The year 1951 may be considered as the birth year of wadaiko ,   in the sense that this was when Japanese drumming was reinvented as  s !  saku-taiko   [    Ôcreative drummingÕ]. Although this creative drumming began by drawing heavily on traditional, local festival or ancient ritual elements, its purpose was both to extend traditional elements and search for new self-, musical and artistic expressions and  possibilities. While numerous groups have attained world fame and become influential, it would not be wrong to attribute the foundation of todayÕs wadaiko  to four groups: Osuwa Daiko [    est. 1951 by the late Oguchi Daihachi ] , 10   " edo Sukeroku Daiko [    est. 1967 by Kobayashi Seido ] , 11  Ondekoza [    est. 1969 by Den Takayasu ]   and Kod !   [    est. 1981 ] . 13  As commonly known, these groups have made great contributions to the development and decisive format of wadaiko . For instance, under Oguchi DaihachiÕs direction, the Osuwa Daiko established the modern ÔgroupÕ form of drumming  performance, known as kumidaiko [  ] or more technically  fukushiki fukudah !   [  ] , a method of combing multiple drumming styles performed by a group of drummers. This has become the basis of wadaiko today. " edo Sukeroku Daiko on the other hand, contributed to the slanted positioning of drums to facilitate stage  performance, now a common, if not standard, setup for wadaiko . Meanwhile, Ondekoza was founded by the late Den Tagayasu   [  ] , who envisioned the establishment of a four-year college training to nurture young professionals in traditional crafts. The group combines marathon as part of their training for their  performances and has set the famous image of male members wearing nothing but a  piece of loincloth, as a way to show the power and strength of the drum and its  performer. The group later split, with one group remaining on Sado Island to form the much influential and internationally acclaimed Kod ! ; while the other group left the island to settle in Shizuoka, retaining the name Ondekoza. 1.2. North American wadaiko  On the other side of the world a different strand of wadaiko  culture was being created not long after the birth of wadaiko in Japan, under different circumstances and for different reasons, but converging also with the wadaiko from Japan. The history of  North American wadaiko  culture began with the first Japanese immigrants in the late 19 th  and early 20 th  centuries (Varian 2005: 30), but it was not until the late 1960s when it began to attract popularity. 8  www.asano.jp 9  For instance, Asano Taiko makes traditional drums as well as new drums like the Okedo-Taiko-Eitetsu designed by Eitetsu Hayashi, Òwho changed the traditional okedo-taiko for stage use.Ó (From Asano Taiko official website.) 10  www.h4.dion.ne.jp/~osuwa/ 11  www.oedosukerokutaiko.com 12  Ondekoza owes its naming and repertoire (which is inherited by Kod !  and subsequently by many innumerous groups influenced by these two groups) to the local traditional drumming ondeko  (or oni-taiko  if pronounced in standard Japanese, meaning devil drums). The current group calls itself ZA ONDEKOZA. www.ondekoza.com 13  www.kodo.or.jp    5 1968 Ð San Francisco Taiko Dojo The history of wadaiko in North America began with Seiichi Tanaka, known as the Grand Master, a  shin-issei   [  ]  (post-war Japanese-born immigrant) after he moved to the U.S. in 1967. Having felt the lack of drumming at a festival that year, he  borrowed a taiko  drum from the local Buddhist Temple and performed drumming at the autumn festival the following year. Thereafter, he repeatedly visited Japan to learn more about taiko  and finally established the San Francisco Taiko Dojo, the very first of its kind in North America, all in that same year of 1968. His name is mentioned in a great number of official websites of wadaiko groups, for he is a much-revered figure in the world of Japanese drumming in this part of the world. 1970s Ð The spreading of wadaiko in North America Wadaiko  appears to have a significant role in facilitating Asian-Americans/CanidiansÕ in search of their identity within Caucasian North American societies, particularly centring around Japanese and/or Asian communities around areas like San Francisco and Los Angeles. Varian points out that after World War II many Òdownplayed their culture and language for fear of reprisal and assimilated into the American cultureÓ with Ô[t]he taiko that had arrived in 1910 languished silent in a warehouseÕ (2005: 30); thus for a period Japanese and other Asian-Americans lost touch with their roots (which is symbolised via the drum, itself a symbol of religious link back to traditional Japanese values) but later found immense possibilities to reclaim that identity through wadaiko . Professor Izumi of Doshisha University has conducted research to reveal more detailed history of the establishment of wadaiko  culture in North America (2008: 139-168), which includes Kinnara Taiko [  est. 1971 ] 14  in Los Angeles, with a pronounced Buddhist tone and San Jose Taiko (est. in 1973), which has seen eager  participation from many Asian-American students. In Canada the first group Katari Taiko [  ] 15  was founded in 1979 in Vancouver. These forerunners in wadaiko  culture in North America subsequently helped inspire and create more ensembles that began to appear in a diversity of regions. Many temples and some colleges also have their own groups, though the former generally carry a religious overtone while the latter often act as club activities that  promote team spirit. Today many North American wadaiko group members are still  predominantly those with a Japanese or other Asian background, searching for a common or individualistic sense of Asian value and identity, sometimes also gender and racial equality. Meanwhile, many groups follow Seiichi TanakaÕs drumming way to place emphasis on traditional Japanese spirit which might remind one of the martial  samurai [  ]    seishin   [  ]  (spirit), incorporating absolute strict training of the body and the mind. 2. The extent of wadaiko  culture The number of wadaiko groups has grown exponentially and continues to increase today. However, despite the overwhelming number of groups and associations, there still lacks an exhaustive listing of active groups today. From the many sources available, however, we know that there are Ômore than 8,000 effective Taiko groups in JapanÕ (Rhythm Works [see 2.3 on UK]) and Sakamoto (2002: 7) who suggests in 2002 that Ôthere are about 10,000 wadaiko performing groups in Japan and 250 in the 14  www.vbtemple.org/dharmarain/dr12_tai.htm 15  www.kataritaiko.bc.ca
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