Yamato will perform their new show Jhonetsu – Passion live on The Paramount’s stage on Thursday, February 20 at 7:00PM. Tickets are available at www.theparamount.net/events.
Yamato’s director, Masa Ogawa, recently answered a few questions for Andrew Meacham.
MEACHAM: You are an artist, a glass blower. And a drummer. What was the inciting event that led you to transform from a relatively solitary activity to one that puts you in the center of a school, a community, a thriving show that performs for a million people all over the world?
OGAWA: I think there is no difference between glass blowing and Taiko drumming. In the university I recognized that I wanted to become some kind of expresser. However, I did not have enough passion to create art out of my mind. Unfortunately, I do not have the talent. Sadly, I did not like graphic design either. I did enjoy playing music with friends in the band at the university. I came to understand myself, little by little. I knew that I had a need to make something, by myself, for someone. But I did not know what I could do or wanted to do. I wanted to make my handmade glass by myself and give it to someone who wants to have it. In that creating process, I was hoping that my piece would give a little energy to someone else. After I gave it to them, the smile on their face or just that warm feeling would become my energy. That is still my motivation now.
M: What were those early years in creating Yamato like for you?
O: Yamato was started by something my mother did. She found a big and old Taiko drum in storage of a traditional shrine in our town. She said, “You should do something with this for the Shrine Festival.” I wrote a song and performed it with my brother and friends. It was just one time, and we figured it would be a nice memory. To our surprise, we started getting a lot of requests to play for other people. We didn’t have enough Taiko drums. Nor did we have costumes or any more songs. But nearly 10 people had already joined Yamato. Some of them quit their jobs. Something was happening. We practiced a lot, early in the morning until midnight. We ran 10 kilometers every morning to get stamina. We were feeling that Taiko drumming was giving us the power to discover something, and one of those things was our future. The life itself was so hard, but there was no hitting the wall with stress. We said yes to all booking requests, and also got energy from street performances.
M: Who writes the music? If you write it, can the music change in rehearsal, or through some other kind of collaboration?
O: I write a score on paper with all the notes. Then I pass it to the Yamato members, who try to remember the notes in their head and also in their minds. After the members memorize it, we start practice. Every song has a title. It is important to create with a story in mind. We work to put impart meaning with each sound, connecting some sounds and dividing others. The notes have no meaning just on the score. A sound can be gentle or powerful to be able to describe an image or the story’s title to the audience. In that process, we will be able to find more good notes to suit that image. On the one hand, we follow the score. On the other hand, we throw some notes out. That way our performance is a living thing. It can be continued forever.
M: What effect do you hope the performances have on the audience, beyond being entertained?
O: I hope to be able to enfold people into the big vibration of the Taiko drum. I hope the audience heartbeat will synchronize with our beat. Then I hope people will be drawn into the circle. We want to cheer them up. We hope people can catch their own energy.
M: What has surprised you most about this journey?
O: We are still traveling the world with the Taiko drum. We never thought life would turn out like this in the beginning. If you do something your whole heart and mind, the road you must walk will appear. Just to do desperately. Then on your journey, many wonderful things will happen.