Taiko Composition: Taiko Source Interview

It’s a tremendous honor to be featured on Taiko Source!  In this interview, I talk about the creative process of writing “Rei.” Rei is a taiko composition commissioned by Asano Taiko US. It premiered at North American Taiko Conference 2015 Taiko Jam.  Check out the performance video!

Amanojaku

The word Rei literally means “thanks” or “gratitude.” These were the emotions I felt when writing a piece inspired by my 25+ year journey as a member of Tokyo-based taiko ensemble Amanojaku. This journey eventually brought me to Berklee College of Music, to Los Angeles, and is the reason I have a career in music today.  This piece – I hope – embodies the aesthetic of Amanojaku’s Odaiko style.  What do we think good Odaiko playing looks and sounds like?

I feel tremendous gratitude to my teacher, Mr. Yoichi Watanabe of Amanojaku, for teaching me everything like it is.  The learning experience wasn’t just our lessons every week.  I got to see him in the morning before we went to work.  He would tell me what he was thinking both on a day-to-day basis as well as on a philosophical basis.  We would talk about how he approached each performance, workshop, or lesson.  He would tell me about his relationships with other musicians.  It was much more intense than any class at Berklee because it was real life.  Mr. Watanabe taught me everything about being a professional musician.  He stressed the importance of showing up on time, greeting everyone, and being prepared.  He taught me when to speak up, and when to keep my mouth shut.  I owe my career to him and Amanojaku.

Asano Taiko US

It’s a tremendous privilege to write music for an organization like Asano Taiko US. As a musician, and as a person, I always remember the people that believed in me and gave me a chance.  When I arrived in Boston, Yuta Kato was one of the first people to give me a chance.  He got me a spot as an instructor at NATC.  That led to so many opportunities.  When I moved to Los Angeles, Asano Taiko US was the first organization to give me a major commission.  These are things I feel grateful for – not only as a musician, but as a person.

So many people have helped me throughout my career. Part of being a musician is repaying these people through music and the way we live. To me, Rei isn’t just about saying “thank you.” It’s about integrity. It’s about being sincere in who you are as a musician and as a human being.

Performers and Students

To performers and students who play this taiko composition, it’s important to recognize we all have a lot to be thankful for.  For example, being able to play taiko in and of itself is a tremendous privilege.  It means we most likely have our basic needs taken care of, and we’re looking for something more out of life.  Isn’t that amazing in and of itself?  Additionally, it means we most likely have a group of like-minded peers.  And finally, if you’re playing Rei, it means you have at least one, if not multiple Odaiko to play on.  All this, not to mention our parents, family, friends, and everyone that allows us to play taiko.  I hope everyone that plays this taiko composition can think of something they can be thankful for.

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