Clearly This Site Has Been Much Neglected

Here’s a quick update.  Sacramento Taiko Dan just celebrated its 22nd Anniversary with a concert at The Crest Theatre in Sacramento. Guest artists included renowned Koto player Michiyo Koga and Brooke Jeein Newmaster, Director of the Chang Mi Korean Drumming and Dance ensemble.

JODAIKO is preparing for a couple of performances in Vancouver, BC.  One is a cultural exchange and workshop at The Longhouse, sponsored in part by the First Nations House of Learning @ UBC.  The second is FUSE at the Vancouver Art Gallery the weekend of November 20.

The TAIKOBAKA crew is preparing for the 2nd TAIKOBAKA Odaiko/Shinobue Gasshuku Intensive next January, which is promising to be an awesome weekend…and otherwise, life for me is a bit of a blur.

Lots of changes the past 4-5 years, and all of the reeling is starting to ease off a bit.  I’m in school and have also started bodywork and massage classes, and at the same time I am just now starting to look ahead toward Sacramento Taiko Dan’s 25th Anniversary.  It may seem a bit premature, given we’ve only just passed the 22-year mark, but actually, given the nature of the production as it’s usually carried out, pre-production needs to start soon so we can do things like reserve a good date at our preferred venue.

Thanks, evermore to the webdonkey who sees to it that this site doesn’t evaporate into the ethers while I am  occupied elsewhere.

Hoping you all had a good year and a fine summer.  Hoping you enjoy crisp Fall mornings and the faint smell of woodsmoke lingering in the air.

Looking Forward

Sacramento Taiko Dan has a small summer concert coming up June 26.

I will be doing a couple of small performances in Toronto on June 27 & 28 – opening act for:    Verdant: Queer Writers on the Verge
8pm | Sunday June 27, 2010
The Piston 937 Bloor ST
$5-10 sliding scale

and also appearing at the unveiling of the 519 Mosaic Project mosaic on Monday night.

Sacramento Taiko Dan will be at the California State Fair on July 24 at 4pm & 6pm. (bigfun.org)

JODAIKO will be performing at the Powell Street Festival in Vancouver (specific date & time TBA) and as part of the QAF at the Roundhouse on August 6.

We’re doing something very different in Graegle this summer.  It’s called Stars In The Barn – Friday, August 20th, 8:00p & Saturday, August 21st 4:00p & 8:00p

Lastly (until I post the October-November stuff) Sacramento Taiko Dan has its Anniversary Concert on September 18 at The Crest Theatre.

Quickly, though.  Kitaro is working to bring 1000 drummers together October 16-17 in front of the SF Civic Center, and SF Taiko Dojo’s Interntaional Taiko Festival is on November 6 this year! It’s earlier than usual, so make sure you mark your calendars.

surreal

Catherine White HolmanI am mourning the loss of someone very dear and close to me.
I will not be around or available until December 15, and even then I have no idea what sort of mental state I will be in.
http://www.timescolonist.com/Float+plane+wreckage+barged+Richmond+crash+still+mystery/2290597/story.html

http://www.vancouversun.com/Remarkable+social+worker+among+people+killed+Saturna+plane+crash/2291224/story.html

http://www.xtra.ca/public/Vancouver/Catherine_White_Holman_was_a_light_to_so_many-7965.aspx

server issues

My webdonkey is in server provider hell.

I am only in server purgatory and being  glad I am not a webdonkey.

Although  my own personal site is now up and running, sactaiko.org is still in limbo.

I am hoping it will be back up soon.

As for me, I’ve spent 12-14 hours per day for the last 4 days helping to clean out the apartment of someone dearly close to me who now can’t make it solo and has been moved to a 24-hour care facility.  I must admit to being absolutely wiped out in a deeply exhausted sort of way.

more…later.

and the thing I really wanted to blog about…

My Mom took me to Disneyland!!!

Yes, she did take me when I was a kid, but what I mean is she also just took me to Disneyland not too long ago.  My family did, more or less (thanks guys).  One would hope at 42 years of age I would be able to afford to pay my own way, but the reality is it’s not something I’ve been able to afford to do the past little while.

Gee have I missed out on a lot.

IMO the changes to Pirates of the Caribbean absolutely stink.  They took a classic ride and turned it into a cheaply (poorly) produced self-promotional ad for the movies.

It’s sad.  The movies were based on a classic ride and capitalized on most of the best elements contained therein.  Now the ride is like a bad xerox copy of itself…with a poorly strung together series of references to Jack Sparrow.

The magic is gone.  The broader vision is gone.  Those elements that made it expansive in scope and universally appealing have been stripped away.

I understand people expect to see some sort of references to Disney characters within the park, but do you have to beat me over the head with Jack Sparrow all the way through the ride?

It’s a Small World also now has characters from more recent movies hidden among all the cultural animatrons, which is cute and slightly more tolerable and even understandable…plus the color schemes are updated and less ’70’s-esque, which is both cool and sad in a way that there’s hints of a bygone era now long gone…I would give the same critique, though.

The core of the scope of those rides was more expansive and universally appealing before, opening up realms of possibilities that could capture the imaginations of anyone coming to the park…not just avid Disney fans.  (and I am an avid Disney fan…although I guess I am more of a “classic” Disney fan).

Some of the new rides are high-tech and fun and cool…but dang.  It’s like they fixed some things that weren’t broken and the end result was…

“disaster” (this, incidentally relates to a whole ‘nother post I’d like to do about being one of the last people on the planet to discover HappySlip, NigaHiga and KevJumba…but that will have to wait, as much as I have been entertained by their youtube productions).

It’s a different world we live in and maybe I am out of touch with what the average park-goer really wants to see, but I find myself a little less inclined to return…well…except that I still would like to work as a a “Jungle Cruise” Captain <sigh> good thing I am Buddhist.  Maybe next lifetime!?

More soon.  ish.

okagesama de – II

There’s still a lot going on in my life, and I have a lot of thoughts jumbled up in my head.

First off, of course I did not manage to work in everyone I ought to have thanked in the process of mentioning people on stage or in the program at the 20th Anniversary concert.

Honestly, I also didn’t manage to thank everyone should have up in Vancouver for the Jodaiko concert.

I am debating working on a master list to put up on one of the web pages.  I don’t actually have the time right now, but it’s nagging at me in the back of my head.

It has taken the efforts of a lot of people to get Sacramento Taiko Dan to 20 years, and this goes doubly so for me and what I have managed to accomplish.

Sure.  I did a lot on my own and my own efforts made a difference.  I am just still humbled by the fact that so many people have helped me along the way.  The kindness and generosity of so many people has made such a profound difference.

As a founding member and as the leader of the group, the spotlight often gets put on me and what I have accomplished, but I know that I was able to accomplish things because I had guidance and help all along the way.

I am glad I could finally dedicate a concert to someone who was still alive.  My grandmother has supported my career in so many ways.  Most of the the trips I’ve made to Japan to study could not have been made without her help, and $20 in kozukai here and there plus meals at her place have been invaluable.

I’ve also gotten a lot of help from my Auntie Ets and her daughters (my cousins) Sharon & Diane (and their families), and from my Uncle Ben and Auntie Carol, and their son Scott…meaning hugely major significant ongoing support of me personally and also the group.

I should mention my Uncle Stephen in that regard, too.  My Uncle Sat and his wife LeAnne and their daughter Tara and her husband Dave have also been contributing (with one of the most stunning and memorable contributions ever being Tara dancing Onikenbai for one of our anniversary shows).

David and Bonnie Smith helped to get me to the Odaiko competition the year I won…it boggles my mind how many people have made my career possible…and I haven’t even gotten into how Tanaka-Sensei, or PJ & Roy, Alan & Merle, Russel & Jeannie, or the KODO folks (especially Yoko, Yoshikazu, Chieko, Atsushi, Mitsue, & Masafumi), Den-san and the members of Ondekoza, especially Marco Lienhard…and Oguchi-Sensei & Tosha-Sensei & Kobayashi-Sensei & Kenny & Chizuko & Catherine Ochi & now the Shidara folks…ooh…and what about Chie Otsuka (?) and everyone else whose helped me while in Japan…OMG how could I leave out John and Terry Diefenbach (!?) or Mr. Tauchi & the Suigun Daiko folks (and Esther for letting me crash at her place when I went there to see what Suigun Daiko was all about).  The Japan Arts staff…and then everyone in Okinawa especially the Arakaki & Tokuda families).

I can barely even begin to quantify the help I’ve gotten from Senmu and his wife and their children (especially Sumiyo!).

This is maybe as a little as 1/20 of the people that make hugely significant contributions and I didn’t include my siblings who make sure things are ok at home when I am on tour, or my neighbors, who keep an eye on things…and then Kristy who just helps to keep everything together and flow and Megan Chao Smith who has been such a huge part of things for over the past decade, and there’s Art Lee who produced 2 tours in Japan for the group & Monika an Peter who hosted and produced us in Germany, and there’s Hop in Moab & all the other members of Moab Taiko,  and Karen & Rome In Tucson, & Eileen & Leslie, & Bonnie Soon & Noriko & & & Hiroko Ninomiya…Missy!?  Millie!?  JoJo Salami !?!?!?!

ok.  I only have maybe 1/1000 of the people who help to make things happen in hugely significant ways….and do I send thank you cards?

Generally…no.  It’s my worst character flaw…and the thing is I often buy them and write them out, but then I almost never get around to sending them…just like holiday cards.

Rather uncouth of me, actually.

Although, there’s so many people to thank, whole forests might be decimated if I sent everyone a card…but…yeah.  I’m still a schmuck for not sending them.

Oh…and Megan Jane…thank you for helping to keep me sane this past year, and for your kindness and loving  support throughout what may have been one of the most high-pressure, stressful years I’ve had to date.  Thank you, Chris, for teaching me how to play Go, because it really was a lifelong desire kind of thing.

…and to the all the members of Sac Taiko, past and present…please know that I know that what we have accomplished we have accomplished together.

As to everyone who is as yet unmentioned…just please know you are often in my thoughts.  Really.  Seriously…in a borderline OCD way.  I think about you all the time and acts of kindness great and small…so much so, I think my head might burst some times…and I am agonizing because I am coming up with name after name of all the people I want to express my appreciation to and this post is long enough and I’m cutting it off here.

I am a profoundly grateful human being with a lot to be thankful for.

uchiage

I have been to some uchiage in my day, but the last uchiage I went to was as over the top as the rest of the weekend.

Of course we started with a toast (or as Ishikura-san says, “nomu-nication).  Then, at one point (pretty early on) there was a sort of a round of each person around the table being offered a very large shot of shochu, which quickly devolved into a sort of drinking game in which various people were slugging shots of Hachijojima shochu while singing Kuroda bushi.

For the record, some women from Miyake-jima can sock this stuff away as if it were cool-aid.   I was lucky in that it was dang good shochu (and I don’t usually like shochu), and I got away with only having to drink 2 big shots.  I’m not naming names, but one guy said this sort of drinking in Japan was like hazing in a university frat, only much more polite

There were some tasty platters of very fresh sushi, including a few large bowls of uni being passed around, and some other snacks and various kinds of otsumami.  I’m having a hard time trying to remember what wasn’t sung over the course of the evening.  Kaigara bushi, Soran bushi, various kiyari…and now I am out of time, so…more later…mebbe.

The Next 400 Years

I was just at one of the most amazing gatherings I’ve ever been in my whole entire life.  As we all came to the entryway, they had everyone pound in one byou (tack) each on a nagado-daiko.  then it was 200+ professional solo artists and group leaders and representatives from all over Japan, plus a few of us from other parts of the world.  All kinds of people that I’ve learned from, trained with, performed with, toured with, taught, admired…all in one room.

There was Kagura from Shimane (with Imafuku-san), Buyo (Renjishi) by Aska-gumi, Miyake-daiko, Hachijo-daiko, and Kurumaya-Sensei, and Imafuku-san and Yoshikazu-san doing Jingi, and then AUN (the Inoue twins) playing tsugaru shamisen…and then people were calling for Yoshikazu to do a solo and Murayama-san got up and started playing fue, and then Yoshikazu eventually ended up playing a killer Odaiko solo accompanied by Ryutaro on chappa and AUN backing up with ji and fue…and then Tomida-san was running up and spraying sake on Yoshikazu and then Ryuta and Kouhei and then the audience…it was all so over the top and almost unbelievable.  (Is this is where I mention seeing Bryan & Mas wearing suits…!?  kidding, guys…you looked sharp).

The dinner was kaiseki ryori and also absolutely incredible.

There were toasts and more toasts and kiyari singing, and there was banzai-shouting and I had one of the very best seats in the room to take it all in.

There were a few speeches of course and one of the most heartening themes was not so much looking at the past 400 years but looking forward to the next 400 years.  Shiomi-san brought up the fact that the “taiko boom” is basically over in Japan and that the economy is hitting everyone hard.

Yet, everyone seemed determined in that sort of zealous, almost crazy way pro taiko drummers usually seem to be…the way one has to be to be a pro taiko drummer, really…and when Senmu started talking about looking ahead to the next 400 years, the energy in the room was palpable.  Even more touching was the sincere appreciation expressed by the entire staff of Asano Taiko to everyone.  It’s was an incredible expresseion of “En” — a  profound, fundamental sense of mutual obligation and respect…joy and gratitude.

There were so many reminders of how incredible Taiko can be and how much I love it all…

What comes next?  Idunnno, but for tonight I feel a strange sense of camaraderie and I am looking back at 20 years, and at the next 20 years, because that’s what comes up next on my plate with Sacramento Taiko.  Seeing folks celebrate a 400th Anniversary puts a 20th Anniversary into a certain kind of perspective.

wow

Tonight we performed at the Asano Taiko 400th Anniversary Celebration opening concert.

There were some pretty amazing performances by a lot of wonderful performers, and it was humbling to be a part of it all.  Opportunities like this are once-in-a-lifetime.

Kristy and I were joined by Megan, Aya and Chabo of Shidara, and we did an extended arrangement of Kokorozashi.

It was reasonably tight, but not as free nor as powerful as it could have been.

We were on beat.  We hit all the breaks.  The solos weren’t bad.  It just wasn’t one of those 2%-everything-in-the-zone performances.  That’d be the kind one would hope to pull off on a night like tonight…and most of the performers did.  I don’t think I am being overly self-critical.  It’s an honest assessment.

Then, too, this is Japan, and the calibre of the wadaiko that happens here is just so extremely great, one really has to put forth exceptional effort without holding anything back for the performance to hold its own, and give just a little bit more on top of that for the performance to stand out.

I am second-guessing myself.  There were a lot of ways we could have arranged the piece, and maybe I didn’t make the right choices.  Maybe…a lot of things.  It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t the best.  All in all it was great, though…being here.

My heart is full of joy and gratitude.

Time flying by…

Tonight I got the chance to perform at the kickoff celebration for the 1-year countdown to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC.

The collaboration was pulled together by Sal Ferreras, and included drummers, dancers and singers from the Four Host First Nations (Lil’wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations), and some Chinese and Punjabi drummers as well as Eileen Kage and me on Taiko.  It included the two time world champion hoop dancer, Alex Wells, and Musqueam dancers doing a traditional dance representing some of their history, and a beat-boxin’ rapper named Ostwelve.

Six minutes and ten seconds of drumming and singing and dancing at the top of a show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, that featured quite a few more very talented artists, with Sarah McLachlan closing out the show.

It was a blast.

Yes, there’s controversy and yes there were protests, but for our small part, we participated in a pretty dang cool little bit of music making.

The theatre staff was great, the production folks were great and the Local I.A.T.S.E. folks took very good care of us before, during and after the show…which I got to see part of…so that was great, too.  I’ve been hoping for a very long time to see a live performance of “Angel” (I like the song.  A lot!), and that particular dream was fulfilled this very evening.

As I was being helped out of the loading dock, I caught a recap of the evening’s activities on the news and managed to see Eileen drumming behind Ostwelve for nearly 3 whole seconds…!!!

Seriously, though, meeting all of the other artists and learning more about their rhythms, dances and traditions…was just a fantastic experience.

Thanks, Sal!  You rock!  All of you folks do…
I have a lot more I want to say, but I am a bit too tired.

I will add, however, that I still have the protective temporary crown on my newly root canal-ed molar, and that I am going in for a permanent restoration soon!

I love my friends and family.  I feel very blessed this evening.