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Weblog of Kaoru Watanabe, NY based Flute/Fue player

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.

These masters share an utmost devotion to quality as well as intimate  knowledge and devotion to tradition balanced with a desire to evolve and grow.  I've known all these folks for at least fifteen years and see how both their playing as well as their pedagogy has become richer with nuance and clarity. 

So moving forward: for my own growth as an artist, as I continue to cultivate my relationship with such esteemed artists, I am developing relationships with the next generation. 

When Yuta Sumiyoshi, one of the young stars of Kodo, jammed with my band while the company was on tour in New York in 2015, I was immediately taken by Yuta's fearlessness, enthusiasm and obvious skill. Yuta in turn was apparently taken by the facility with which the members of my band and I jumped in and improvised in whatever direction he went in. He told me later he almost cried twice during the improvisation and that it was one of the most musically moving experiences of his life!

I was honored when he contacted me later to say he would like to spend more time studying and playing with me in New York. I decided the best way for someone of his caliber to study with me was to perform with me. As a result, I am extremely excited to announce some upcoming dates which will feature Yuta teamed up with my extremely formidable apprentice Fumi Tanakadate

In LA we will double bill with my old friends On Ensemble, two sets of our own respective music but plenty of cross pollination as well.  In San Diego, in a concert presented by the local San Diego taiko community, Yuta, Fumi and myself will present a full length concert, followed by a show in NY that will feature us with other friends- some fearless New York improvisers including Shoko Nagai on keyboards and Gamin on piri, taepyeongso and saengwhang. 

Also, Yuta will be teaching an intensive at my studio, teaching the virtuosic katsugi andtaiko set techniques he is known for, as well as insight into his compositional process. Spaces in these intensives are limited so early sign up is recommended. As always, please let us know if you need financial support to participate. 

Kaoru Watanabe