Japanese close jubilee celebrations
Marcia Rowe, Contributor
H.E. Yasuo Takese, Ambassador of Japan to Jamaica, and his staff staged a successful concert in the ballroom of King's House, Hope Road, St Andrew, last Thursday.
The specially invited guests were treated to a blend of intriguing- sounding musical instruments, background information on Japanese culture, an engaging dance, and, most of all, a heartfelt shamisen reggae rendition.
The shamisen is a three-string lute made from cat and dog skin. The skillful playing of the Japanese traditional folk music group ABEYA used the shamisen, along with other instruments such as the shimo-bue (a flute made from bamboo), and atarigane and taiko drums give meaning to the ambassador's opening remarks in which the audience was encouraged to "hear the passion of the Japanese people."
On paper, titles such as the opening folk song, Tsugaru Jongara Bushi, were just unusual-looking words, but the song, with a distinct Tsugaru style that was developed in the northern region of Japan proved - as did all the others performed on the hour-long programme - that beautiful music in any language is just that. The instrumental piece was aptly chosen for the start.
In the medley Hanakasa Ondo, Don Pan Bushi, and Tokyo Ondo, the wildness of the folk songs was demonstrated in singing and rhythmic dance form. The audience got the opportunity to participate when Maya Nemoto, the lone female in the group, taught them the Japanese word saisho, meaning "the beginning".
But the brightest spot of the show was provided by brothers Kinzaburo and Ginzaburo Abe. The elder Kinzaburo, who speaks English, informed the audience that they were brothers and asked them to identify the older, while pointing at the slightly taller Ginzaburo. He proceeded to share anecdotes of competitions both had entered in which he had always come out victorious, thus living up to the meanings of parts of their names - Kinz (gold) and Ginz (silver).
The brothers' rivalry was then illustrated in a clash-style performance in which they proved equally good.
In another unforgettable performance, Ginzaburo, who rarely sings, was entrusted with paying tribute to the audience with two Bob Marley and the Wailers selections - No Woman No Cry and One Love. He gave a fine rendition except when he forgot a few words from his favourite reggae song One Love. But his pronunciation was flawless.
LOVE FOR REGGAE
Later, speaking through an interpreter, Ginzaburo said he had been to Jamaica before and "was into reggae music". He explained that he faltered in singing One Love as he was overwhelmed with emotion at the thought of singing such an iconic song to a Jamaican audience.
The show's encore was a celebratory selection that entailed a dance, which allows for the twirling of two zeni-daiko filled with coins. Prior to that, the family of performers, along with Hidesaburo Abe, Tatsumasa Ando, and Narumi Teramura, also gave a taste of a new style of the Tsugaru. According to Ginzaburo, the new style is performed faster than the older classics.
Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen and Lady Allen, along with Ambassador Yasuo Takese and his wife, Sayoko, were patrons of the show. Thursday's production of the Tsugaru Shamisen Concert, ABEYA, was one of two concerts closing a year-long celebration of Japan's Golden Jubilee. The other, a public affair, was held on Saturday.