Taiko Performances in Kuwait and Jordan

Les Frères Concert Tour in South Korea - PIANO SPATIAL
© Takashi Kawashima

The Japan Foundation has organized a taiko, violin, and saxophone ensemble tour in Kuwait and Jordan.

Middle Eastern countries have long enjoyed a flourishing tradition of outstanding literature and arts, and the field of music is no exception. Widely enjoyed, Arabic music is enlivened by the distinctive melodies of traditional Arabic instruments. Drums are the heartbeat of Arabic music, so it is no surprise that Japanese taiko music enjoys great popularity in the Middle East, where many performances have been held over the years.

Taiko remains at the heart of this ensemble, but other instruments of Western musical traditions will round out the performances, showing the engaging Japanese instrument in a new light. In the spotlight is vivacious taiko performer Shuichiro Ueda, who has toured in Japan and overseas with taiko group Eitetsu Fu'un No Kai and made a name for himself in solo performances and with kabuki troupe Heisei Nakamura-za. He is joined by violinist Wasei Suma, who has performed with musicians in a wide range of genres including jazz, pop, and taiko music, and saxophonist Masahiro Tamura, who has been a soloist with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra and a member of many other orchestras and groups, including the Clover Saxophone Quartet. Although infused with Japanese melodies, performances in this tour will therefore have broad musical horizons. Stirring taiko performances will be accompanied by pieces with these Western instruments, giving audiences a sense of the intriguing depth and breadth of Japanese music. The concerts are sure to be memorable for Middle Eastern audiences.

Born in Kobe, Shuichiro witnessed the Hanshin Earthquake of 1995 firsthand, and in the aftermath of the recent Tohoku disaster, he continues to support relief efforts. His performance will include an original piece played on a drum made with children affected by the disaster, as a way to convey hope for their recovery.

Performance Schedule: November 23 (Wed.) to November 28 (Mon.)

Date November 23 & 24, 2011 (Wednesday and Thursday)
Venue Abdullah Aziz Hussein Cultural Center Theater (Mishref Theaer)
Organizers The Japan Foundation, Embassy of Japan in Kuwait
Co-organizer National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters
Date November 25, 2011 (Friday)
Venue Special stage in Souk Sharq
Organizers The Japan Foundation, Embassy of Japan in Kuwait
Co-organizers Kuwait Japanese Association, Souq Sharq
Date November 28, 2011 (Monday)
Venue Prince Hasan Hall, University of Jordan
Organizers The Japan Foundation, Embassy of Japan in Jordan
Co-organizer University of Jordan

Musician Profiles

Shuichiro Ueda

Photo of Shuichiro Ueda
© Takashi Kawashima

Born in Kobe in 1976, Shuichiro first discovered taiko in high school. He sensed its power in performances held to console and encourage fellow Kobe residents affected by the Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, and after graduation, he toured Europe with the taiko group Wadaiko Ichiro. On return, he became a founding member of Matsumura-Gumi, a Kobe group in which he was a core member for eight years.
Shuichiro has studied under legendary taiko soloist Eitetsu Hayashi. As a member of his group Eitetsu Fu'un No Kai, Shuichiro toured extensively in Japan and overseas with the master.

In 2004 he devoted himself to solo performance and made his debut at a Peruvian performance of Taiko ni tsuite (About Taiko: A concerto for Japanese taiko), composed by Shigeaki Saegusa. The following year, he served as general producer of the Oriental Night event at Club Citta' in Kawasaki. At this time Shuichiro organized his first concert, Aka to kuro (Red and Black). 2006 also marked the start of a series of performances at the New Year's World Rock Festival (held annually on December 31), produced by Yuya Uchida. 2007 saw the release of the live album Last Summer with pianist Kazuo Suzuki.

Next year Shuichiro performed taiko with the Heisei Nakamura-za kabuki troupe in stagings of Natsumatsuri naniwa kagami in Germany and Romania, at Cocoon Kabuki in Tokyo, and at Shinshu-Matsumoto Grand Kabuki in Nagano. Never before had orchestra members (in this case, Shuichiro and flutist Denjuro Tanaka) taken the stage and actually appeared in the play itself, and this attracted critical acclaim. Other kabuki performances followed in 2009 in Shukyo: Tamayura, a fusion of Eastern and Western genres with the traditional kabuki orchestra Sankyokai, pianist Hibiki Inamoto, guitarist Kaori Muraji, and shakuhachi performer Dozan Fujiwara. After contributing again in 2010 to stagings of Natsumatsuri naniwa kagami in Osaka, the 2011 calendar has seen Shuichi perform in Fukuoka.

In addition to solo performances, Shuichi currently performs with a range of musicians including tsugaru shamisen player Shinichi Kinoshita, shakuhachi player Keisuke Doi, pianist Kensaku Tanikawa, pianist Kazuo Suzuki, saxophonist Masahiro Tamura, 25-string koto player Karin Nakagawa, and flutist Denjuro Tanaka in a variety of genres, continuing to pursue his own musical style.

Wasei Suma

Photo of Wasei Suma
© Takashi Kawashima

Born August 27, 1981, in the city of Fujinomiya, Shizuoka. Completing core studies as a university student, Wasei served as concertmaster in the university orchestra while playing in sessions for bands, DJs, and contemporary dance. Around this time, he played violin in his father's band Bi Kyo Ran, which contributed soundtrack music for the animated series Cromartie High School. Wasei arranged some songs for the band, and other music he wrote was

used for TV news programs and variety shows.
Studio work began after graduation with music for animated TV series (including the educational NHK program A Country Between the Worlds) and commercials, as Wasei also branched out into string arrangement. Performing with his ensemble Neo Strings, formed in 2005, he recorded with many TV studio musicians and personalities, as he promoted original arrangements and performed at venues including Tokyo's Ariake Coliseum. Playing on luxury cruise ships took him around Japan and overseas.

For the 2006 TV drama Nodame Cantabile, Wasei provided violin instruction for actors Hiroshi Tamaki and Eita Nagayama, besides contributing in solo recordings and filming. In 2007, he began making regular TV appearances himself on Midori Utsumi's Tokyo music program.

Collaborating with lighting designer Haruki Kaito on a project combining ambient music and lighting in Japanese temples afforded a chance to perform as a one-man-band on electric violin, a tabla he had purchased in India, and effects units, which revealed the possibilities of electric violin and led to sessions with bands in diverse genres. Gikoh Gikoh, Wasei's own band, was formed in 2009. Now that the musician has found his voice in original songwriting and arrangement for "rock violin," there may be no turning back. Other current bands include the acoustic unit Wafuku (with the guitarist from Gikoh Gikoh) and Strush (with a taiko performer), focused on dramatic performances with both Eastern and Western influences.

Solo violin performances include work with Michiyo Azusa, Ikko, Infinity16, Instant Cytron, Midori Utsumi, Tomoko Kataoka, Cover Lover Project, Caravan, Hajime Kobayashi, Rumiko Koyanagi, Kou Shibasaki, Jazzin' Park, Juliet, Dew, Tohko, Megumi Nakajima, Mana and Kana Mikura, Momonaki, MCU, Lil' B, and Radio Aktive Projeqt (including live performance, dinner shows, arrangement, and recording).

Masahiro Tamura

Photo of Masahiro Tamura
© Takashi Kawashima

Born in Kanagawa Prefecture, Masahiro is a graduate of Tokyo University of the Arts, where he received the Ataka Award. Other awards include first prize at the third Junior Saxophone Competition and first prize and special recognition in the saxophone category at the 19th Japan Wind and Percussion Competition, where he was the youngest winner on record.

Masahiro started performing at a variety of concerts and events while at university, with notable venues being NHK-FM's Meikyoku Recital and the Yuya Uchida's New Year's World Rock Festival. As a soloist, he has played with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Harmonia Chamber Orchestra, Geidai Philharmonia, Blitz Brass, and many other orchestras and brass bands. His solo performance of Jérôme Naulais' "Frissons" (for saxophone and wind ensemble) on the Strauss Brass Orchestra album Nazca Lines was the first recorded in Japan. Masahiro has toured widely with the Clover Saxophone Quartet, whose albums Clover and Precious (available through King Records) were acclaimed in the magazines Rekodo Geijutsu and Ongaku No Tomo and the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper. As a soloist on the Blitz Brass album Sax Expo!!, another featured selection in Rekodo Geijutsu, he performs Rika Ishige's "Muta In Concerto" while switching from one instrument to another, from baritone to soprano sax.

To date, Masahiro has studied saxophone under Masahiro Owada, Nobuya Sugawa, and Kazuo Tomita and chamber music under Nobuya Sugawa, Kin-ichi Nakamura, and Yutaka Kobayashi.

Besides his solo performances and occasional lectures at Senzoku Gakuen College of Music and Kanagawa Prefectural Yaei High School, Masahiro is currently a member of the Clover Saxophone Quartet, Trio 1214, Tokyo Lure, and Tokyo R Ensemble. Performances outside of classical music include work with taiko performer Shuichiro Ueda, jazz pianist Kazuo Suzuki, and vocalists Sumiko Sakamoto, Seiko Ishii, and Jay Kabira.

Masahiro is managed by Yamaha A&R.

Hikari tomoseshi kibo to inori no taiko purojekuto ("glimmer of hope and support" taiko project)

Image picture of Hikari tomoseshi kibo to inori no taiko project
© koji iida

In the wake of the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku, this project was initiated in April by taiko performer Shuichiro Ueda to help maintain local traditional arts and events, and to give survivors support and encouragement.

Toward this end, believing in the power of taiko to resonate with and inspire those affected, Shuichiro is holding inspirational performances and workshops in recovering areas and will assist in local traditional arts and events through taiko performances and organizational support over an extended period.

[Contact Us]

Yoko Kitagawa E-mail
Tel: +81-3-5369-6063
Performing Arts Section, Arts and Culture Dept., The Japan Foundation

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