It was the best part of my sembreak so far. I’m still a bit high (figuratively of course) from the event but I will attempt to write a coherent post about it.
Wasabi, The Spirit of Japan: The Sound of Traditional Instruments is an event organized by the Embassy of Japan, to celebrate the Philippines-Japan Friendship Month and the 40th year of ASEAN-Japan friendship and cooperation. The event was held yesterday October 19, 2013 at the CCP Little Theater. It features the performance of WASABI, a traditional Japanese instrumental group composed of Ryoichiro Yoshida (Tsugaru-shamisen), Hiromu Motonaga (Shakuhachi), Naosaburo Biho (Taiko/Percussion), and Shin Ichikawa (Koto/Bass Koto).
We all (or at least those who are familiar with Japanese cuisine) know the word ‘wasabi’ as that spicy condiment but this Wasabi is entirely different. The band’s name is a combination of ‘wa’ meaning ‘Japan’ and ‘sabi’ which means ‘the catchy part of a song’. Wasabi therefore, means ‘the best part of Japanese music’.
How the hell did I know about this event, you ask? We’ll I have to thank Rappler and National Youth Commission (NYC) for that. Rappler, for making me aware about it and NYC for letting us have a reservation! ❤
From L to R: Shin Ichikawa (Koto/Bass Koto), Hiromu Motonaga (Shakuhachi), Naosaburo Biho (Taiko/Percussion), and Ryoichiro Yoshida (Tsugaru-shamisen)
I arrived (really) early because I came from the Future Market (blog post soon!) at Escolta. I was already at the CCP Little Theater Lobby at around 4:30pm so I had to wait 2 more hours. At 5:30, I decided to go grab a drink at Starbucks then at 6, I was a bit surprised that there were quite a crowd already so I went on to get tickets for Janine and myself (which was a good idea because if not, we will not be sitting together). As for expectations, I really didn’t have any and I just wanted to be surprised. And boy was I surprised (AND SO VERY HAPPY).
Music for the young audience
Let’s face it. Our music tastes vary. This may be more evident in different generations. My dad likes old songs, those kinds which you would hear on the radio every Sunday; my mom considers the sound of linkin park (whom my kuya and I loves) as noise (with the screaming and all); and as for me, I don’t really like techno. But as one can observe, most of the youth today listen to the music of Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Beyonce, Usher, Justine Timberlake, etc. all of which uses modern instruments or any digital way of making music (forgive me for I am not familiar with the terms but I’m sure you know what I mean).
Here in the Philippines, rarely will you see young people appreciate or listen to traditional music. Traditional instruments are now just a part of the textbooks and museums or cultural presentations. It is not something we listen to everyday and it is not something we play (which is quite understandable because there are few stores who sell them…but then again, if the demand is high, sellers will eventually pop out). There may be some bands who still use them but they’re not that mainstream.
What Wasabi has brought us was the kind of music that the younger audience will surely appreciate because of the modern genre that they incorporated in their performance. It was not boring and as I look around the audience, I can see some (including me!) even bobbing their heads to the music. I remember a piece that they performed where Janine and I immediately thought of the Naruto soundtrack. So while they were playing it, I was imagining a fight scene in Naruto, which was so awesome because it’s like I was in the fight scene myself, battling Obito, hearing Naruto talk, etc. Here we can see that the use of traditional instruments should not be limited only to folk songs but it should also be used to create songs that the current generation will be able to appreciate.
According to the performers (and the pamphlet):
“The tsugaru-shamisen and taiko drums are mostly associated and frequently played in a folk music context and it is rare for them to perform with koto and shakuhachi which are customarily featured in classical genres such as Sokyoku, Jiuta and solo shakuhachi repertory.”
My favorite instrument was the taiko. Well, maybe that’s because in general, I really prefer drums over any other instruments. But the one that strikes me the most was the performer because he was smiling all throughout and seems to be really enjoying himself. I am not saying that the others do not enjoy what they’re doing as well but Naosaburo Biho’s smile was really contagious, not to mention the instrument that he plays further heightens the mood. The Koto, on the other hand, was so sweet and calming. Whenever it was played, I cannot help but sigh and think of a beautiful and tranquil lake. The Shakuhachi and Tsugaru-shamisen for me (who is not a music major) were the key because they can be as powerful as the taiko and as elegant as the koto.
Aside from the president of the CCP and the Ambassador of Japan to the Philippines, F. Sionil José(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) also attended the event. Earlier, I already got the feeling that it was him when I saw him at the lobby but of course, I might be wrong…but I wasn’t. It was really him and I was so happy and giddy because I brought my compilation of his essays (Why We Are Poor: Termites In The Sala, Heroes In The Attic). Now that’s what you call serendipity.
Janine, Me and Mr. F. Sionil José
At the end of the event and after the meet and greet with Wasabi (pity we weren’t able to take pictures), we saw him again. I was reluctant to approach him and ask for an autograph but thanks to Janine’s YOLO moment, she was able to get one for me (because I was too shy to ask him) and take a photo with him (albeit a bit blurry).
This event made me very hopeful for our own music. If only we also learn how to incorporate the use of traditional music in our songs, maybe we’ll be able to fully appreciate the craftsmanship of our ancestors. I believe that music is alive and instruments should not used in only one musical genre. Music is flexible and creativity is limitless.