Archive for October, 2009

Shamisen / Err performance wrap-up

Monday, October 19th, 2009

My sincere thanks to Kineya Yasoyo and the volunteers that worked to make yesterday’s fundraiser performance happen!

As part of the show, I played “Err”, the solo piece I’ve been working on for the last four years or so. The piece is inspired by CD technology and incorporates puzzles into the rhythms and the musical score. It’s still a work in progress but I’m making small steps here and there. Here’s a clip!

Shamisen performace Sunday Oct 18

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

My good friend Kineya Yasoyo has organized a shamisen performance fundraiser for Nichiren Temple in downtown Los Angeles. I will be performing two Kabuki pieces, as well as the newest version of my solo taiko piece, Err. Included with the ticket price, all guests will be served Japanese tea as well. There will be Japanese food for purchase too! If you’re in the area, please come! Tickets are $35 at the door.

Nichiren Temple
2801 E 4th St
Los Angeles CA

Goodbye DC, welcome to NY

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

nendaikokaoru_classesJust wanted to give one more shout out to Nen Daiko for their generous hospitality in Washington, DC.  After the Nen Daiko workshop Kaoru, Tetsuro and I headed to NY in our two rent a cars.  I ended up not being able to make it and stopped at a hotel along the way but Kaoru and Tetsuro pushed on and arrived in NY at 3am.  We were supposed to return the cars by noon and I get a call from Kaoru at 11am and in the the eight hours that the car was parked in NY it was broken into!  Can you believe that?  Eight hours…  The passenger side window was smashed and the thieves had tried to steal the GPS unit.  The problem was that it was a rent a car GPS that was hardwired into the car so they were unable to unattach the unit.  Even if they did somehow manage to wrestle the unit free the joke would’ve been on them.  It was like the first GPS unit ever created and it was unusually hard to follow.  It could very well have been my general incompetence but even with the unit I got myself lost a good half a dozen times.  For a touring musician DC is a nightmare.  Between all those crazy roundabouts and split level roads that go under the roundabouts, I think I’ve been lost in DC more that any other city in the nation.

After getting the car returned and filling out the police report Kaoru and I headed to his taiko studio where I met some of his students and taught a workshop on basic stance and form.  I watched Kaoru teach Miyake the first class and his taiko students looked great!  Miyake is one of those songs that was popularized by KODO and most taiko groups play the KODOized version (often without realizing it) which gets turned into a super power taiko piece.  The procession that happens at the beginning  and the song that happens at the beginning and middle of the piece is often dropped in favor of all out power solos.  Kaoru has actually been to Miyake island and has learned the original version and teaches his students both versions with all of the subtle differences between the two.  I personally favor the original version as I find it much more nuanced and musical than a lot of the power versions.

So if you are interested in Miyake or Hachijo or other folk pieces that have been adapted to wadaiko I encourage you seek out the original versions.  There is much to discover and going deeper to the source of the piece will only inform and improve whatever version you end up performing.

Mongolians in DC

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

teserendorj_white_houseshine_dcThe flight from Ulaanbaatar to DC over was kind of crazy.  We left at 12:20am Ulaanbaatar time, flew to Seoul where we had a 6 hour lay over before the 14 hour flight to DC.  When we got into DC it was only 11am the same day and we had to make it through the entire day without crashing.  In DC we had two performances and a workshop with the local taiko group Nen Daiko.  The Nen Daiko folks were gracious enough to let us stay with them during our time in DC and a big thank you goes out to Ms. Nakamura for the great breakfasts!  Being on the road with a sizable group speaking three different languages can be chaotic so it was nice to have the stability of a nice breakfast in the morning!

Our first performance was at the Japanese Information and Cultural Center and the next day we performed at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage where they have free performances everyday the entire year!  They also broadcast the performances via the internet for free and you can watch archived performances at the Kennedy Center’s website.  The performances were fun though I was personally fighting a cold brought on by the tiring travel schedule.  The next day most of the ensemble took the train to New York while Tetsuro, Kaoru and myself stayed behind to give a workshop to Nen Daiko.  Kaoru gave them fue lessons, Tetsuro taught katsugi technique and I gave them a few pointers on Omiyage a piece that I composed for Taikoproject and have released under a free art license.  The basic idea is that the song is free for anyone who wants to learn and perform it with the only rule being you have to give the song away in the same spirit it was received in.  Anyone that knows the song is also encouraged to teach others.  It’s been a surprisingly successful idea a quick youtube search yields a good dozen or so videos of groups performing or practicing the song.

not a Mongolian warrior

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

airaggersToday was a great day of new experiences.  Shinetsog’s parents prepared a great Mongolian picnic for us.  There were dumplings and horse meat with potatoes and carrots, some great pickles and a variety of Mongolian cheese and curd foods all washed down by a healthy amount of vodka.  Any fantasy I had about being a Mongolian warrior in a past life was but to rest by my inability to finish a full cup of airag (fermented mare’s milk).

After the picnic we went to a giant Genghis Khan statue took a bunch of photos which was followed by another mid day food break.  Then one of Byamba’s friend’s invited us into her ger which was followed by even more food.  We were served milk tea, fresh yogurt and a sweet caramelized cream called Khailmag.  It was really great to see a traditional ger up close.  We watched as the yaks and sheep were fed and even got to ride a horse.  Finally we made a stop a music shop where I spent the rest of my Mongolian money on CDs and small instruments that might some how fit into my bag.

We have one more day in Mongolia then we’ll be headed to DC.  We have so many people to thank for our time here in Ulaanbaatar.  A huge thank you goes out to Hulegu, Nominjin and Byamba for taking such great care of during our time here.  I’m looking forward to a day when I can repay the hospitality.

Khel Khuur duet

Monday, October 5th, 2009


Here’s a short video of our master magtaal singer Teserendorj and his son Soyol performing a khel khuur duet.

Mongolian Taiko

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

mongolian_taikoteserendorj_soyolToday we held a taiko workshop for students at the Music and Dance College of Mongolia.  Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten has generously donated a set of taiko to the college where they will start a taiko class this summer.  Kaoru gave the students an overview of the taiko, Tetsuro showed them how to properly care for the instruments and I taught them Renshuu Taiko.  All the students were percussion majors so they caught on very quickly.  We left them the set of beautiful new Miyamoto Taiko which I’m sure they will put to great use.

After the we workshop we had a rehearsal then went to Teserendorj’s home for a fantastic dinner!  Teserendorj’s home was amazing, all the rooms were decorated in the style of a traditional Mongolian ger and there were instruments everywhere.  The hospitality we received was overwhelming.  We were served a multi course meal topped by a private concert from Teserendorj and his son Soyol.  It was a great night of food and friendship.

Tomorrow we are finally getting a chance to get out to the city.  While I’ve enjoyed my time in Ulaanbaatar immensely I don’t think I’d be hurting anyone’s feelings when I say that the city is not going to win beauty contest anytime soon.  Combine that with the fact that all hotels and stages pretty look the same no matter where you are in the world and I’m really looking forward to getting out into the fabled Mongolian countryside.

Ulaanbaatar Concerts

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

kte_groupThe Khoomei Taiko Ensemble has made its official debut.  We just finished a series of three concerts in Ulaanbaatar.  The concerts were not without their nervous moments.  The biggest was wondering if Tetsuro and I would have any taiko to play.  Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten has generously donated a set of taiko for the project that will stay in Ulaanbaatar and be donated to the Music and Dance College of Mongolia.  The set of taiko had arrived in Mongolia but were held up at customs until our highly esteemed magtaal singer Teserendorj Tseyen went down to the customs office personally and managed to get them out.

Our first concert was for the students of the Music and Dance College of Mongolia.  The second and third concerts were at concert hall in Xaan Bank.  The music has gotten better with each performance and it’s exciting to feel everything come together.

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