Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Brian's Shamisen Studies

Our equipment manager Brian built all of Tamashii's drums, including our O-Daiko, and he has turned his attention to studying shamisen.  Of course in truly Brian-fashion, he had to make it himself, which got a great response from some of our Japan-based taiko friends.



English Translation

(A quick translation whipped up by our teammate Alec)

Last year, on a New Zealand blog, I was introduced to someone who makes all sorts of musical instruments. He's made Nagadoudaiko's (what we call chuudaiko) about 60 cm long, Oodaiko's about 90 cm long, shimedaiko's, marimbas, and a tsugarujamisen modeled on my shamisen, and his name is Brian.

I've got the latest on Brian.
He keeps on improving his improvements and no matter where you look at it from, it's a Tsugarujamisen.
The skin is cow hide. I don't know what the plectrum's made of, but it looks like he's made that too.
The thread doesn't appear to be silk. I'm not sure what the strings are. The is also quite an interesting shape.
The sound is something between a guitar and a shamisen, like a banjo. What kind of sound does it give out......?
I want this instrument and definitely want to try playing it.
I also want to gift him some strings.
His playing is very much in the Tsugaru style and I've heard that he taught himself.
There are some amazing people in this world.

Friday, 25 June 2010

On the Spiritual Aspects of Taiko Drumming

Like most Japanese arts, taiko is mainly about practice.  Once you build sufficient "muscle-memory", even the most complicated rhythms and movements all feel very natural and straightforward, and you get to think about other things like your interaction with the crowd, your voice, facial expressions... your timing and connection with the team... and so on.

This has an innately spiritual essence to it, because your body is a flurry of activity, doing things that, by all accounts, you never believed it capable of doing -- and yet at the same time your mind is completely relaxed and at peace, not even really "in the moment". 

Recently I've become aware that this relaxed state of mind occurs the moment I pick up my bachi (taiko drumsticks).  Suddenly everything is peaceful and well-ordered and makes perfect sense.  My mind can take a nap since my body already knows exactly everything that's going to happen.  

As I understand it, this is the essence of the asian concept of "no mind", and in entrenched deeply in everything from martial arts to music to zen meditation.  Probably, training in anything enough will ultimately reach this state, but for me, physically-oriented arts like taiko, music, and martial arts fit best.