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Weblog of Kaoru Watanabe, NY based Flute/Fue player

Summer Greetings!

Fumi Tanakadate

Summer Greetings

Greetings from Madrid while in transit to Granada. My last update was in early March so there's a lot of catching up to do. 
I've been traveling to different corners of the world, making music and learning and growing tremendously from the profound challenges of various projects. 


Here's an overview of what I've been up to: 

MARCH

  • A duo performance in El Paso, TX, revisiting the duo repertoire that Fumi Tanakadate and I have been developing over the past couple of years.

  • Trio concerts in San Antonio, TX, with a new group featuring percussionist Satoshi Takeishi and harpist Maeve Gilchrist. We were joined by the principle dancer of the Houston Ballet, Nao Susuzaki. I love the sound of this trio- not only is Maeve a fantastic improviser who provides both bass and melody, but she happens to plays an instrument that I heard my mom play in the house every single day growing up. And as always, Satoshi brings so much musicality, feeling and intensity to everything he does.

  • A concert in Philadelphia, again with Fumi but with the addition of Gamin, a master musician on the Korean piri, taepyoungsol and saengwhan. We did all my compositions and a lots of improvisations and I continued my exploration of using the koto in a decidedly non-traditional manner.

  • A private event as a member of the Silkroad Ensemble- performing with Shane Shanahan, Maeve, Preeti Vasudevan and Yo-Yo Ma. I've done a few performances with Yo-Yo by now but occasionally I recall how moved I was seeing him give a masterclass when I was about 16 years old- almost thirty years ago... We performed two of my pieces along with tunes by Shane and Maeve. All in all tons of fun.

APRIL-MAY

  • A few days in Elizabeth Town, PA, deep in Amish country, again with the Silkroad Ensemble as part of the Ware Lecture Series on Peacemaking. There was a time when I used to think the Amish were backwards for not embracing modern technology... I guess they were right all long considering how the world is looking now?

  • Silkroad Ensemble- Heroes Take Their Stands Tour. This was an incredibly challenging tour for me. I wasn't used to reading music while playing taiko (strangely, my ability to read music while playing flutes didn't at all translate to percussion playing) and I had to do a lot of it. I wasn't used to reading music off of an iPad while using a blue-tooth-connected pedal to turn pages (a surprisingly tricky thing to coordinate for me!). During rehearsals, I always felt the sound of taiko completely overwhelmed the delicate string and wind instruments even while playing as soft as possible, so I was struggling to feel comfortable play with the tone and command that I'm used to. I used in-ear monitors for the first time. One of the pieces I played was way too fast for my skill level. We were doing one of my compositions, a last minute commission by the Silkroad Ensemble that I had scrambled to pull together. All this and more combined and I was a wreck in the beginning of the rehearsal process. All these glaring deficiencies in my playing came to light and I had to rewire my brain and body to feel at all decent about my playing. In the end, I feel I came out of the whole experience a better musician.

©David Bazemore - UCSB Arts and Lectures

©David Bazemore - UCSB Arts and Lectures

MAY

  • I performed in a site-specific opera, Murasaki's Moon, inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The composer Michi Wiancko, composed a gorgeous score and the staff, crew and performers were all truly world class. For me personally, I had to draw from all of my skill sets, improvising and reading lots of music on both the fue and taiko, working on my transposing skills and switching quickly between fue to maneuver through key changes, following a conductor, listening and matching singers as well as other instruments, often from across the room. I felt like all the skills I've been developing over the last three decades were being exploited. Having done that Silkroad tour helped tremendously in all of this.

  • Shortly afterwards, I played a gig on western flute- something I only do perhaps once or twice a year, playing with some old friends Kyle Sannaand Skye Steele as well as a host of new friends for a performance celebrating the poetry of Walt Whitman, channeled through multiple actors and musicians. Most of the music was written by Kyle and Colin Jacobson, a member of the Silkroad Ensemble who was on the Silkroad Heroes tour. More and more, all of my worlds seemed to be colliding in magnificent ways.

JUNE

  • I spent a few days up on Grace Farms, a newly build space designed to host collaborative meetings between musicians, dancers, poets, visual artists, scientists, activists, theologists, architects and other creative types. The facilities, designed by the Japanese architecture firm SANAA, was elegantly and perfectly sculpted into the sloping wooded landscape. I was there for a project convened by visual artist Alyson Shotz, an acclaimed artist who has works in the Guggenheim, Storm King and other major museums and art spaces across the world. The renowned drummer Nasheet Waits invited me to be a part of the project. We spent the part of the time reading and discussing TIME, as viewed through the lens of science, religion, music and poetry and then we tried interpreting and processing some of those discussions through dance and music improvisations.

  • I made a short trip to Madrid to perform once again with the flamenco dancer Eva Yerbabuena- again, I felt all the experiences written above helped me alter my approach to how I work with Eva and her company in a way that felt better than it had before.

  • From Spain, I went straight to Uganda for my first visit to the African continent. I was there for some events in Kampala and had a day to visit the source of the Nile River by boat and drive around the city. It was beautiful and inspiring to meet many wonderful folks but difficult to see and hear about the rampant poverty, lack of jobs and resources for people living there.

  • Now, I'm back in Spain for two more shows with Eva Yerbabuena, one in Granada and one in Cordoba. I have a few days between shows so I will try to travel around a bit seeing different cities I've never been and having new adventures.

This summer will be on the slow side, a few performers here and there, and time to focus on writing music, practicing, developing new material, maybe making an album (?), then things will pick up in the fall again. My next show in the US is July 12th at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (more info here).

I find myself constantly in a state of gratitude for all the opportunities to perform, to study and grow and for all the continued support from friends, family and other supporters. 


Sincerely,
Kaoru

Happy Spring!

Fumi Tanakadate

Hello friends and family,

Hope everyone is staying healthy and happy so far in 2019. I have already been through two bouts of 103ish degree fever, including catching the flu. Despite it all, I've been able to enjoy all the music making and traveling that has come my way.

In the last few weeks I enjoyed a wonderful first time collaboration with Sameer Gupta and Parul Shah at the Rubin Museum. The fantastic designer Dan Ichimoto provided some elegant images that were projected during key points of the performance. Sameer experimented with a seven tabla set-up - usually tabla refers to two drums- and I experimented by playing the koto - a thirteen string zither that I have no formal training on- as well as with my usual array of shinobue and Japanese percussion. The music reflected the themes of Nature/Love/War, three elements that abound in both Indian and Japanese literature and folklore.

Last week I was in Spain for just a weekend trip- rehearsing in Dos Hermanas, just outside of Seville and then heading to Jerez de la Frontera for a concert with Eva Yerbabuena, one of the stars of the flamenco world in Spain. It's always a humbling experience working with such high-caliber musicians, deeply entrenched in their tradition but with forwarded-thinking minds, open to push and experiment. 

Just a few days ago, I performed with the pipa virtuoso, Wu Man at the Met Museum. We debuted a piece of mine as well as another older piece that I arranged for this group. 

Coming up, I'll be giving (another) workshop to students at the Boston Conservatory through Silkroad Ensemble, then will be deep in rehearsals for a bunch of upcoming shows: another concert with Wu Man, back to Spain with Eva, a new trio called Borogusakagu (ratty smelly furniture) with Sameer and the great Brazilian percussionist Rogerio Boccato in Brooklyn, a few duo performances with Fumi in El Paso, Texas, a few shows with a new trio featuring percussionist Satoshi Takeishi and Celtic harpist Maeve Gilchrist, a private concert with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silkroad Ensemble in Manhattan. Then in April, a performance with Fumi and the fantastic Korean musician Gamin in Philadelphia, a tour with Silkroad Ensemble on the West and East Coasts and then another show at the Met Museum, this time a new opera by Michi Wiancko about Murasaki Shikibu.

Finally, The Wes Anderson Collection, Isle of Dogs book came out last year, with the Japanese version just coming out recently. There's a whole eight page spread dedicated to me in there. It's available on amazon here!

As always, I feel a sense of honor that I'm able to make a living as an artist and have the opportunities to work with folks that also approach their work with passion, dedication and integrity. I hope to see many of you somewhere during my travels!

Jan 25 Kaoru Watanabe + Sameer Gupta’s Nature/War/Love at Rubin Museum

Fumi Tanakadate

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My first show in New York of 2019 is coming up January 25th at the Rubin Museum. I will be working with a tabla player/percussionist Sameer Gupta and kathak dancer Parul Shah. As usual I’ll be playing various Japanese percussion instruments and flutes. For this performance, we are drawing from Indian and Japanese folklore, mythologies and poetry to deal with universal themes of the human condition, death and destruction, love and war. 
 
One example of a story that we explored was that of Shizuka Gozen- a tragic historical figure, caught up in the horrors of a civil war between two powerful brothers, Yoritomo and Yoshitsune, in the Kamakura period. We broke down the character of her name Shizuka to represent different parts of the concert: 青 (blue) to represent NATURE. 争 for WAR and combined them into 静 (quiet) to represent LOVE. This information feeds what we have created very directly in an abstract way. The music will also draw from modern history- my composition for prepared koto ZERO, is about the Zero fighter, the Japanese fighter jet used in WWII, a symbol of both Japan's engineering and design brilliance as well as the resulting death and destruction.

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Tickets: $30.00
Museum member Receive a Discount
Click here for more information
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Sincerely,
Kaoru

Year End Review

Fumi Tanakadate

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Hello friends and family,

I haven't been keeping up with my website and my mailings these last few months but it's not for lack of things to announce. I’ve had a very intense year, both professionally and personally and keeping up with these posts sort of fell to the wayside. I’m just returning from Boston where I had my last public show of the year, so I thought I’d take a look back at some performance highlights of 2018.

The year started with a bang: a couple of performances in ice-skating rinks brilliantly conceptualized by Alicia Hall Moran, that featured saxophonist Maria Grand and myself, concerts with the great tap dancer Kumagai Kazunori, two new ensemble debuts: trio with Mazz Swift and Satoshi Takeishi and Dreams (music for 5 strings, fue and Japanese percussion), premieres of two of my compositions for orchestra with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House and the release of Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs for which I did music.  

In the spring, I had a bunch of duo performances with Fumi Tanakadate, a disciple of mine who has really developed into her own as a musician. I shared a triple bill with two genius musicians Claire Chase and Susie Ibarra, had a show in SF with Mark de Clive-Lowe, did various projects with folks like Brazilian percussionist Rogerio Boccato, Korean wind player Gamin, percussionist Keita Ogawa, tabla and drumset player Sameer Gupta, pianist and accordionist Shoko Nagai, a bunch of Silkroad Ensemble stuff with the Parker Quartet, oud player Hadi Eldebek, Sheng player Wu Tong, and percussionist Shane Shanahan, as well as performances with multi instrumentalist Elena Moon-Park and dancer Miki Orihara

Over the summer and fall, I begin working with flamenco master Eva Yerbabuena, her top-tier musicians and the amazing vocalist Sato Anna from Amami Oshima. Eva had me over in Spain for a few different concerts and we will continue the project into next year. Also, I had more shows with the Silkroad Ensemble, including a performance in Houston's Rothko Church, a collaboration with Shakespeare & Co, a project in Beirut and another chance to perform one of my compositions with orchestra, this time with the Boston Conservatory Orchestra in the venerable Boston Symphony Hall, along with Irish harpist Maeve Gilchrist and tabla player Sandeep Das. Other collaborators of the last half a year include saxophonist and high-school friend Jacob Duncan, one of my mentors Adam Rudolph and his Go:Organic OrchestraBrooklyn Raga Massive, and a new group of Harris Eisenstadt's at the Stone.

Finally, over the last weekend, the Silkroad Ensemble had performances in Arkansas and Massachusetts. The Silkroad Ensemble has a rotating cast of performers and this particular show had Kinan AzmehEdward Perez (another friend from high-school), Shaw Pong LiuWu-Man (who I'll be performing with here and there with next year), Joe GramelyMike Block and Yo-Yo Ma.

In the first few months of 2019, I have a bunch of performances that I’m really looking forward to, more work in France and Spain with Eva Yerbabuena, a new project with Sameer Gupta and kathak dancer Parul Shah, some of my own performances in Ft. Collins, a performance with Wu Man at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, along with other shows with various groups in Philadelphia, Texas, Taipei and Tokyo

I’m constantly humbled by the opportunity to work with such incredible musicians and am full of gratitude for all those that make my life and career possible. 

Happy Holidays to all and I look forward to seeing friends new and old in the coming weeks and in the New Year!

Sincerely,
Kaoru

August 2018 Newsletter

Fumi Tanakadate

So it's been a long time since writing a report. Life has been an endless series of intense transitions and challenges. I feel blessed to have all the opportunities to grow as an artist and as a human being.

Over the past few months…

Read More

March 2018 Newsletter

Fumi Tanakadate

January and February of 2018 were incredibly productive, inspiring and challenging on so many levels. My mind and body are reeling from all the new experiences.

In January, I debuted a string quintet of all my music at the Tenri Cultural Institute in NYC and debuted a new trio (Satoshi Takeishi and Mazz Swift) in

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Happy New Year! | Upcoming Concerts

Fumi Tanakadate

Very excited to share information about some upcoming activities for the new year. 

While I've already been up to various projects with others in the last few weeks, MY first show of the year is on January 19th and it's going to be something new for me. A little background information:

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UPCOMING CONCERTS IN US AND JAPAN

Fumi Tanakadate

IMG_5389.JPG

On the road for a few weeks.

From November 8th to 11th, I was at PASIC, a large percussion convention, to take sit on a panel discussion and to give a performance/clinic. I was also proudly representing Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten and kaDON.

Miyamoto booth in the exhibitor hall at PASIC

Miyamoto booth in the exhibitor hall at PASIC

Miyamoto booth in the exhibitor hall at PASIC

Miyamoto booth in the exhibitor hall at PASIC

From here I’ll spend a bit of time in Kentucky, up through Ann Arbor, MI, Dublin, OH, DC and back to Philadelphia all for workshops and performances. Thanks, Shoji, Aya, Yoshi, Yui, Jacob, Joe, Eileen, Brian, Mark, Lisa, Evan, Therese, Tamiko, Fumi and others for making things possible and meaningful. 

Set up from the concert I had in Calvary Center in Philadelphia

Set up from the concert I had in Calvary Center in Philadelphia

Only a few days after getting home, I will get on a plane to Japan for about two more weeks of performing and teaching. Please see the complete listing of activities below. If you have friends or family anywhere near where I'll be, I'd much appreciate help getting the word out. The music continues to develop and grow with each encounter and interaction I have and I continue to look forward to sharing with an ever-expanding circle of friends.

Kaoru Watanabe

September Update

Fumi Tanakadate

IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS, I found myself performing and teaching in Istanbul, Tanglewood (in MA), Washington DC, San Diego, Los Angeles, St. Louis, London and of course NYC. All journeys were incredibly rewarding and challenging all at once, whether it was doing a video shoot with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silkroad Ensemble, curating a mind-bending collaborative performance with musicians and dancers representing Brazil, Haiti, Jamaica, Peru, debuting an arrangement of one of my pieces for piano in my hometown of St. Louis (playing on the same stage on which I first played taiko 31 years ago), performing for the first time with jazz/electronica musician Mark De Clive-Lowe, bilingual MC Shing02 and others, recording music in London for Wes Anderson's new movie or doing an improvisation with a master soba maker for the Japanese delegation to the UN General Assembly (Prime Minister Abe opened for us).

COMING UP, I'm taking place in a fundraising event with Silkroad Ensemble, in a few weeks, I'll be performing at the National Gallery as part of the Canales Project and TEDx Mid Atlantic. A couple months from now I'll be performing at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Indiana. 

One more project that's a little further down the road is a tour we're calling KAORU'S JAPAN. I will be personally bringing a handful of people to Japan in late November through mid-December, introducing and translating for workshops (Miyake, Edo Bayashi), demonstrations (Noh and Kabuki), concerts(my own, Kabuki) and site visits (Ranjo's fue making studio, Chichibu Festival). It's open to taiko drummers and fue players of all levels (including absolute beginners). Please check out the details here!

Kaoru's japan KWTC image.jpg

Finally, when I write these updates, I often feel a huge chasm between how grateful I am for the opportunities I get to perform, teach and travel and the immeasurable suffering I see and feel all around me- whether it's from natural disasters, man-made crisis, hateful and hurtful policies, racism, sexism, classism, and sickness. I am plagued with feelings of guilt and pettiness for pursuing my selfish artistic dreams. It is, however, all I know and is the best way I feel I can contribute to society. 

JO HA KYU part II

Fumi Tanakadate

Greetings. It has been a little bit since sending out my last newsletter. In the past month I have performed in various parts of the US (Maine, Colorado, DC, NY) and a last minute trip to Istanbul with the great Kenny Endo where at one point we found ourselves performing for the controversial Turkish President Erdogan and his machine-gun toting body guards. I performed with PAN ProjectMike Block and Shane Shanahan from the Silk Road Ensemble, did a little recording with Jayme Stone and other various projects. I've also been very busy preparing for some interesting projects in the works for this coming fall and winter (first time performing at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention or PASIC), a trip to Japan and a BIG thing coming up in early 2018 in Sydney (more on that soon!)

SO- before all that, however, I have two shows this weekend. The first is with Adam Rudolph's GO:Organic Orchestra at the Brooklyn Conservatory July 29th and the second is JO | HA | KYU part II on the 30th at National Sawdust.

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Upcoming Projects and Review

Fumi Tanakadate

Hello friends!

I'm spending most of May in at home in New York, cultivating both my actual and artistic gardens and trying not to get too caught up in the news. I've been composing, arranging and experimenting with music daily with my eye on various upcoming projects. It's been a very rewarding endeavor and I always feel blessed to have musicians around me that can help hone and develop ideas.

UPCOMING PROJECTS

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Announcing a new concert series...

Fumi Tanakadate

I'm happy to announce that I've received a grant from the Brooklyn Arts Council to fund a four part concert series I'm calling JO | HA | KYU. The basic concept of the series is developing meaningful dialogue between Japan and other regions of the world through music, dance and art, while celebrating Brooklyn's rich cultural makeup. Details of all the concerts are still being hammered out but the first one is coming up very soon!

Read More

February Update

Fumi Tanakadate

Hello Friends and family,

It's been an interesting year so far to say the least. I'm trying to stay positive, creative and proactive through all that is happening. With the deliberate intent of fighting the ignorance and hatred permeating and emboldened in our global society these days, I promise to keep pushing my art forward, to continue working with an ever more diverse array of collaborators.

I will be performing at Joe's Pub on Feb 25th with the great Kenny Endo, a huge influence and inspiration in my life- in a way a singular predecessor to my path, a Japanese American who moved to Japan and lived there for a decade studying and working with the vanguard of Japanese artists.

Read More

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Fumi Tanakadate

2016 was a milestone for me personally and it came and went without me even realizing it: Ten years ago, I left Japan and started a new life in Brooklyn, NY in 2006.

I had actually made my decision to leave Kodo in 2005. I told then director Ryutaro Kaneko on the ferry ride back to Sado after a Spring tour of my decision to leave and his response, I remember clearly was: 遂に来たか (So finally the time has come!). This was about a month before my directorial debut of Earth Celebration, a big annual festival where Kodo hosts groups from all over the world for collaborations and Ryutaro san recommended two things: 1) I wait until after Earth Celebration to make the announcement 2) if I really wanted to do things right by Kodo, I should stretch my transition out for about a year.

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Reflecting on last month and moving forward...

Fumi Tanakadate

Last month, almost thirty taiko players, coming from as far away as by Buenos Aires, visited my home to study with first Chieko Kojima and then Kazuhiro and Hidenori Tsumura. People were treated to in-depth physical training (a memorable two hour period of time was spent on just the elusive left arm technique of Miyake island drumming) as well as comprehensive lectures on the history, the traditions and the evolution of traditional performing arts of the Hachijo and Miyake islands. The artists also spoke at length of their personal relationship to music and the struggles and challenges they faced along their journey. I saw many participants in tears as they listened to these inspirational stories.

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October Update

Fumi Tanakadate

While I was living in Japan the end of the summer was marked by Earth Celebration, Kodo's annual world music festival and the Bon (ancestral) celebration in the town of Ogi where I lived. Earth Celebration to me was an intense period of the year for me- a month of sheer exhaustion from countless rehearsals and meetings, the physical labor of putting up and then taking down a large outdoor stage, high energy performances with top class musicians from across the globe and most important, seeing friends new and old, many of whom come from oceans away for the festivities. 

Life in NY for me doesn't have that relentless backbreaking pace but has a different sort of intensity and fulfillment. In the past couple of months, I debuted a new group, mixing Brazilian and latin jazz musicians and Korean traditional/contemporary music to my own sound. I also continued to develop existing groups and taking part in other people's projects, including an interesting theater project- a brand new work-in-progress that, while set in the Jim Crow era resonates heavily with current day politics regarding immigration, assimilation, racism and violence. 

On a very different note, I was honored to be a judge in an online shinobue competition in Japan. While in close contact with fue players and other instrumentalists of traditional instruments, I don't have the opportunity to interact or hear amateur musicians very often. For those of you interested in seeing how the results and all the participants' entrees, please click here:
http://contest.rippei.com/result/

COMING UP:

Kiyohime on Sado x Chieko Kojima w/ Kaoru Watanabe
Sunday, October 9th | 6pm | $15
ShapeShifter Lab | 18 Whitwell Place, Brooklyn, NY 11215

A long time collaborator and friend, Chieko Kojima, one of the founding members of my old group Kodo, will be in NY to give an intensive weekend workshop at my studio. Then on October 9th, we will perform together at Shapeshifter at 6 pm in conjunction with the opening of a photography exhibition by Maiko Miyagawa, someone responsible for many iconic images of Kodo from the last couple of decades. We will be joined by Fumi Tanakadate and Gamin, one of the foremost practitioners of traditional, contemporary and improvisational Korean music. Chieko is a rare performer, able to create fantastical worlds through her movements and rhythm. This concert's main theme is Kiyohime, a character from Japanese folklore made famous in the Noh play Dojoji- a woman whose unrequited love for a buddhist priest transforms her into a giant snake demon.  Fun!
Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/307233399635979/
ShapeShifter Lab website: http://www.shapeshifterlab.com/
Photo credit: Maiko Miyagawa http://soaring-photo.com/


The following weekend we will be hosting an intensive weekend workshop as well as short Sunday workshop by two brothers from the Tsumura family, the most renowned practitioners of the traditional festival music of Miyake Island. 


On October 20th, Thursday, I will be performing with another longtime collaborator and friend, the great Kenny Endo at Mansfield Theater Great Falls in Montana. Following soon after that will be lots of traveling for performances and workshops at Cornell University, Brussels, Paris, Hamburg, Edmonton, Los Angeles, San Diego and New York to close out the year. More information to come.

Hope to see you all around!

September Update

Fumi Tanakadate

The summer has been very fruitful. I have recently finished shooting a whirlwind 6 courses for KaDON, an online instructional resource presented by one of the most venerable taiko makers in Japan, Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten. The courses, which will be uploaded over the course of the next year, range from fue fundamentals, fue improvisation (which delved into various Japanese pentatonic scales, embellishments, phrasing, rhythm and ear training), fue melodies (I presented 10 simple and a couple not-so-simple melodies for students to learn by ear), taiko fundamentals (posture, body awareness, using a metronome, etc), stage presence (how to move instruments in a safe, efficient and elegant way), and finally an advanced level course on my own composition called Prism. 

 

The reason I decided to teach Prism is that there are many compositional elements in the piece that I don't see many taiko players deal with in terms of rhythms and structured improvisations. I wanted to give people tools - and some courage - to write pieces that are less conventional, perhaps challenging the notion of what people think of when composing for taiko and fue. We spend time learning about polyrhythms- 3 over 2, 5 over two, 9 over two, etc. We practice going between rhythms subdivided in triplets and subdivided in sixteenth notes and playing phrases that decidedly avoid down beats. We learned about how to improvise over unconventional ji patterns. The player must create a compelling musical story in way that fits within the mood and tone of the composition, all while counting odd numbers of beats and phrases and not loosing the beat. I'm happy with how the courses turned out in the shoot, now it's time for the pros to edit them so I sound like I'm at least half articulate!

 

In terms of performances, while I've been working off and on with one of Yo-Yo Ma's groups for a couple years now and I'm featured on one track of his new album, I finally shared the stage with the maestro for the first time. I was at the prestigious Tanglewood Summer Institute where for a week I taught improvisation and Japanese music to some of the top young classical musicians in the world. It was inspiring to be among such talented and driven young musicians and gratifying that I felt I could offer them something from my experience.


I worked for the first time with the great musicians in Rubens Salles' group at the Brazilian Festival at Cornelia Street Cafe. Purely by coincidence, I played the following evening at the Cornelia Street Cafe's Percussion Festival with my own new ensemble featuring, among others, a Brazilian percussionist named Rogerio Baccato who didn't play in the Brazilian Festival this time and a bass player named Edward Perez, who played in the Brazilian Festival the same night I did, but just in a different band. By the way, I first met Edward about 20 years ago while in high school.

I am busy preparing for a couple concerts this month as well as a variety of projects coming up in fall: performances with various folks- members of Kodo, Kenny Endo, PAN Project, Gamin and others - in Belgium, Paris and Antwerp, Montana, California, Philadelphia, Edmonton, New York and elsewhere. More information on all of that as the dates near.

August Update

Fumi Tanakadate

Hello friends and family,

I'm writing this the day after returning from a week at Avaloch Farm- a beautiful ranch deep in the New Hampshire countryside where composers, soloists and chamber ensembles are provided an environment conducive to developing new works. 

I was a part of the PAN Project, a new ensemble that features forward-thinking musicians of traditional instruments from China, Korea and Japan. We spent hours upon hours teaching each other melodies and rhythms as well as improvising together. We spent even more hours discussing our traditions, our instruments as well as our personal artistic processes. We devoted a great deal of time to understanding the various ways to preserve the essential qualities of our respective musics while creating a unified ensemble sound. These discussions ranged in topic from intonation, embellishments, compositional structures, timbre, and volume (the talk about whether to amplify or not took a good part of one morning). We spoke of the various subtle differences between the court musics, theater musics, festival music, shamanistic musics, ritual music, secular musics of our respective countries, as well as how we blend with musics of other styles of music and other countries. One theme that kept coming up was the desire of all musicians involved to find authenticity within themselves and a desire to make music without compromise.

I found myself constantly referring to the many collaborations I've had over the last couple of decades and reflect on how my work continues to rely on the influx of information and inspiration gleaned from these collaborations. I have performed with Mongolian throat singers, dancers from Burkina Faso, stilt dancers from the Ivory Coast, Indian tabla players, electro-acoustic hurdy-gurdy players, Galician bag-pipe players, steel pan players in Trinidad, Romanian brass bands, Brazilian capoeiristas, Polynesian nose flute players and on and on. Due to lack of time or funding, a couple of these interactions were one-off jam session type situations. Most however, involved in-depth back and forth exchanges, like the one described above. I often walk away from all these projects with more questions than answers but at least I feel like my questions are getting better.

This coming week I will be continuing along this path, teaching and leading ensembles for Silk Road Project's Global Musician Workshop at the Tanglewood Music Festival. Other things happening this month include performing with Gamin, a master musician of Korean traditional music and fearless improvisor and bassist Edward Perez and my continued work with a group of LGBTQ youth at the New Museum as part of Simone Leigh's important exhibition Waiting Room. 

A few great reviews of my new album Néo are popping up here and there. Please read them here:

Drum!, Feature story, 07/07/2016, Kaoru Watanabe
Songlines, Album review, 07/01/2016, Asia Reviews Attachment
All About Jazz, Album review, 04/13/2016, Kaoru Watanabe: Néo Text
RootsWorld, Album review, 06/10/2016, Kaoru Watanabe talks with RootsWorld:s Tyran Grillo about his latest work, Néo Text

And here are a few upcoming shows this month:

8/4 - 9 Silkroad Project Global Musician Workshop @Tanglewood Music Festival
8/27 Rubens Salles @the Cornelia Street Cafe Brazil Festival|10.30pm|$20 cover includes a drink
8/28 Kaoru Watanabe with Gamin and Edward Perez @ the Cornelia Street Cafe Percussion Festival|8.30pm|$20 cover includes a drink

Thank you for your continued support!

Sayun Chang

Greetings from Anchorage, Alaska! I had a concert with Yoshikazu Fujimoto and Chieko Kojima of Kodo a few days ago at the Alaska Performing Arts Center. For those of you who don't know who they are, Chieko and Yoshikazu are members of the original Ondekoza group, as well as founding members of Kodo. They are legendary in the world of contemporary taiko and dance and after spending ten years on the road with them, they are like family to me. I hadn't performed with Chieko san in about two years and haven't worked with Yoshikazu san in about five. 

At one point in the concert, Chieko san and I improvised for about ten minutes together- listening, watching, reacting to the others movements and sounds. The performance had many sections- slow to fast and everything in between, ebbs and flows and moments of sheer silence- all of it unplanned. 

The day after the concert, our hosts, a local taiko group called Tomodachi Daiko took us camping and to see the glaciers. Yoshikazu san and I ended up at one point alone tending to a fire for about an hour. The sky was as bright as dusk although it was well past midnight. All in all, it was wonderful catching up with these old friends and sharing the stage with them. 

Chieko will be teaching at my Brooklyn studio in October this year and we will be performing together October 9th. More info on that to come.

Coming up for me in the meantime, a few different projects. First up, a multi-disciplinary opera and film by old/new friend Leyna Marika P. called Song, running at Here Theater June 29th through July 2nd. I say old/new because I only formally met her in recent years although our parents have known each other for decades. As usual, I will be playing fue, taiko and a god-like fox character. The opera will also feature Kamala Sankaram, Ava Mendoza and others. Please check out this link to support! 

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/song--2#/  

I am proud to be a part of Simone Leigh's The Waiting Room at the New Museum. Each week, eight young adults from the Hetrick-Martin Institute, an organization that provides services for LGBTQ youth and is an ongoing partner of the New Museum, will meet to make drums and learn taiko drumming with musician Kaoru Watanabe.

http://www.newmuseum.org/exhibitions/view/simone-leigh-the-waiting-room

I will be performing with Sumie Kaneko at Tenri Cultural Center on July 8th.

January/February updates

Sayun Chang

Hello friends,

 I have a couple of shows coming up in NY that I'm very excited about. The Brooklyn-based collective Motions (with Chris Dingman, Tim Keiper, Matt Kilmer and myself) is finishing out what has developed into a three month long residency at the East Village venue Nublu. We've been experimenting with different iterations of the group - bringing in such artists as Ches Smith, Tamango and Yasushi Nakamura and having amazing guests sitting in with us. Our next (and last for the time being) show is this coming Sunday, January 25th at 9pm.  Keita Ogawa will be joining us on percussion with other special guests.

 After that I'll be in LA for about week performing with the great On Ensemble and Sumie Kaneko. Back in New York after that, I'll be performing with long-time collaborator and mentor Kenny Endo with my group Ne-O Ensemble at Shapeshifter. I'm honored and excited to have been asked by Shapeshifter to be one of their first artists-in-residence as part of their new non-profit Shapeshifter Plus. We will be presenting a series of concerts and workshops over the course of a year and this event is a sort of pre-residency celebration.

 The following day, I will be flying to Japan for some performances with such artists as Semba Kiyohiko, Tetsuro Naito, Shogo Yoshi, Yuko Miyagawa and the great calligrapher Koji Kakinuma.

 Thank you to everyone for your ongoing support and friendship.