Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Taiko Vs. Shamisen: Ancient Instruments Intertwine In Performance First

Kenny Endo (left) rehearses with Agatsuma before the big concert.

Tonight two masters of modernizing ancient Japanese instruments while retaining their classic vitality converge on stage for the first time ever.

Kenny Endo is a legendary contemporary percussion and rhythm artist. Over his forty year career, he has taken the genre of taiko (traditional Japanese drums) to new heights, blending classical elements with global rhythms and original melodies and improvisations. 

Endo warming up his skins. "Taiko" is Japanese for “fat drum” (although the drums vary in size) and usually played in a set called kumi daiko.

Hailing from Hawaii, where he has his own "Kenny Endo Day" as proclaimed by the Mayor of Honolulu, Endo originally trained as a jazz musician in California. He honed his taiko skills at the renowned San Francisco Taiko Dojo, then embarked on a decade-long odyssey through his ancestral Japan in the 80s, studying and performing with the masters of ancient techniques. He has recorded and performed around the world and has the honor of being the first non-Japanese national to have received a natori (stage name and masters degree) in hogaku hayashi (classical drumming).

Hiromitsu Agatsuma is a young and boundary busting virtuoso on the shamisen, a three-stringed banjo-like Japanese instrument performed with an aggressive style developed over centuries in northern Japan. He has been playing the instrument since he was a child, winning his first major competition at 14. After garnering much acclaim in the traditional Japanese music world, Agatsuma began infusing other instruments with beat-driven rock, attracting young and enthusiastic audiences.

Since his U.S. debut at Japan Society in 2003, Agatsuma has toured the world extensively. Like Endo, he explores traditional aspects of his instrument, while constantly experimenting with sound and incorporating diverse musical genres.

Performing together for the first time tonight at Japan Society, these two greats promise music magic, combining classical Japanese sounds with a 21st century feel.

If you cannot make it, check out this exclusive Spotify playlist or see more pictures from the historic rehearsal.

--Susan Berhane

Endo gets some shamisen tips from Agatsuma.

1 comment:

allie said...

I play taiko on Long Island and have met Kenny Endo on a few occasions for performances and workshops... he's a great guy, patient and gives great advice on improving one's taiko skill.