Sugamen work in progress
For the last year or so, Yuta and I have been working on an approach to playing fast rhythms as a duo. One person plays the downbeats and the other the upbeats, a technique called “sugagaki” in the shamisen world. For On Ensemble’s Works in Progress concert, we took the most successful rhythms thus far (two-person oroshi and drum-and-bass’ Amen break in two voicings) and slapped them together for a short demo we’re calling Sugamen.
I think the technique has lots of exciting potential. Since each person is only doing half the work, two players together can create impossibly fast, powerful strikes. Once you reach about 1000 hits-per-minute, the sound becomes a blur of power. I’m sure there are applications to odaiko and two-person naname and nidan, and multi-taiko set as well. We’ll continue to search for musical applications that benefit from the new-found range (hopefully without devolving into a non-musical skill-fest).
In addition to the musical uses, Yuta and I have felt an improvement in our ability to play complicated, syncopated rhythms and keep constant time. The hours of metronome practice and new way of feeling the pulse are likely helping. We’ve had a great time teaching the sugagaki method to participants of last month’s LATI’s Valentine’s Intensive too.
If you have ideas for how we might use sugagaki, or want to start practicing too*, let us know!
* The first 6 months of practice, for example, can be accomplished playing with an audio recording of the second-person part. Contact me for details.