2009-02-28

Asano Beat with Hono Taiko and Hikari



Last night (Feb 28) Asano Taiko held what is to be the first of monthly concerts in its Museum (pictured above). The performers were Hono Taiko and Hikari. Hono Taiko I have mentioned many times in this blog (in fact, if you search google for "hono taiko" this blog comes up on the first page of results several times). Hikari, I have not mentioned quite as often (I did a couple weeks ago, though, when one of their members was here for dinner). Hikari is also made up of three women (like Hono Taiko). The Hikari members are all in their early 20s and have been learning taiko at Asano since they were little girls.

The center of the museum had been cleared out and replaced with about 100 chairs for the audience. At the back of the museum, there is a platform, where there is usually an Odaiko placed with bachi so that guests can try it out. This platform had been transformed into a stage for the performance. It looked like this:


The lights went down and ambient (?) music began to play as images of the moon, cherry blossoms, forests were projected onto the face of the Odaiko. Enter the performers. The six women floated down the aisle toward the stage carrying small lanterns. The images projected on the Odaiko ended with a huge picture of the moon. Which was appropriate because the first song was 月光 (Gekko) or "Moonlight". This is one of my very favorite pieces written by Hono Taiko's Mizue Yamada. I am hoping that she will teach it to us before we leave so that we can perform it back in Michigan. Last night it was played with five parts: One person was playing two shime taiko. Two more were playing a large Okedaiko (maybe about 80 cm) along with a shime taiko. The other two people were playing two long pieces of bamboo. If you enlarge the picture of the stage, you can probably see them towards the front of the stage.

Gekko was followed by a short piece featuring a bamboo flute (shinobue) duet called Inishie. Yamada san of Hono Taiko and Okazaki san of Hikari played the flutes while they were accompanied by the other two members of Hikari. Hono Taiko's Kinoshita Chieko san followed the flute duet with an Odaiko solo on the giant drum at the back of the stage. After the Odaiko solo, Yamada san and Jige san, the other members of Hono Taiko, joined Kinoshita san on the stage for an old, Hono Taiko standby number, Nihon Kai(日本海) or "The Sea of Japan" which I suppose is meant to remind one of the nearby Sea of Japan. I have heard Nihon Kai before, but this was the first time I had heard it in its full length. It is pretty long and appeared to be fairly strenuous. I enjoyed it.

After Nihon Kai, there was a break in the music and Jige san took a few minutes to thank everyone for coming out, introduce the performers and explain a little bit about the songs. It is always interesting when Jige san talks because she tends to kind of talk in an almost stream-of-consciousness way, where she'll just say almost anything that pops into her head, start conversations with people she knows in the audience and appears to almost forget that she is in the middle of a performance. But I think that is one of the reasons that everyone really likes Jige san; she is such a free spirit. (In fact, she is one of the reasons I became captivated by taiko drumming.)

Jige san's interlude was followed by a number with just the members of Hikari playing shime taiko called Ranma (乱馬), which means "wild horse". Having spent the last 6 months focused on shime taiko playing, I enjoy and appreciate the shime taiko pieces all the more.

Hono Taiko returned after Ranma with a new (?) piece called "Out of the Blue" (no Japanese title). This was a much different piece than what I am used to seeing from them. It had a slower feeling about it and was dependent on a lot of interaction between the three performers. It was very musical and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

For the Finale, Kinoshita san brought out her shamisen and Jige san got out her voice and led the audience in a rousing version of a folk song. At the end, all six performers took a final bow on the stage to accept the applause. Then Yamada san, who was in the middle held up her hand, and put the finger of her other hand to her mouth, signaling the applause to stop, at which point the ambient music from the beginning began playing again. Each performer then picked up their candle lanterns they had brought onto the stage at the beginning and made their exit.

The concert was an hour, a good length if you have small children with you. It was very professional... well, of course it was, but this is somewhat remarkable because they didn't hire any professionals for lighting or sound, and so on. They only used people that they had on staff already. They called it a "completely home-made performance". The small venue and small number of guests (officially 126) made it an intimate and enjoyable affair. The March concert will be on March 21st, featuring Hono Taiko, some members of Hikari and Kumen Kirishima Taiko's former Odaiko soloist, Mayumi Hashimoto. If you happen to be in Kanazawa, I recommend putting it on your schedule.

 
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