“Drums & Voices” Southeast Asia Tour: Asian Beats Resonating Together! Creating New Music!

Performers from ASEAN countries01
Performers from ASEAN countries02
Photo of Performers from ASEAN countries
by Kazunori Kurimoto

To celebrate the 40th year of ASEAN-Japan friendship and cooperation, the Japan Foundation is presenting the ASEAN-Japan ‘Drums & Voices’ Concert Tour. ‘Drums & Voices’ will be touring each ASEAN country throughout October and November and playing in Japan in December 2013.

‘Drums & Voices’ brings together 12 performers of traditional music from seven countries-Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Brunei, and Japan-n a unique collaborative group. Over the course of two 2-week residential workshops, held in Thailand (June-July 2013) and Vietnam (August-September 2013), the group will work together to compose the music for the tour, and will then perform this specially commissioned program in all six ASEAN countries throughout October and November 2013*, before performing at the Bunkamura Orchard Hall in Shibuya, Tokyo, on Wednesday, December 18 2013.

This project represents a unique undertaking of musical collaboration across the ASEAN region. By inviting 12 musicians from the ASEAN countries and Japan to spend 4 weeks living and working together, the project will provide a neutral platform upon which the musicians can learn about the character, cultural background, and creative vision of their fellow collaborators. It will also enable the musicians to leverage their similarities and their differences alike to create and perform original work.

All of the participants have in common the fact that they are performers of traditional music. Still, the act of bringing together artists from diverse backgrounds to work together to compose music is inherently challenging. This intrinsic difficulty is precisely why it will be so fascinating to hear the music that this process generates. How will the traditional music of each country be influenced and altered through interaction with other musical traditions? The musicians have now finished their first residential workshop, held in Thailand, and are focusing their thoughts on the new music that is the next stage.

The ASEAN countries share many similarities; but each nation has its own distinct characteristics and charm. This also applies to their respective musical traditions. The participating musicians brought with them to the Thai workshop a wide range of traditional instruments. Take the tapon drum from Thailand and the sampho drum from Cambodia, for example; both instruments are barrel-shaped with drum heads at both ends which are tightened with multiple strings, extending across the barrel, almost covering it. They also both feature a handle at the top. The hsaing waing, from Myanmar, is a drum ensemble in which each drum is hung within a basin-shaped frame. The origins of the Myanmar hsaing waing can be traced to India, yet it is found in a different form again in Thailand, as a percussion instrument called the poengmang khok. There is also great diversity among the musical traditions themselves, with many differences in the various elements that make up the music, such as rhythm and breath. Seeing how such diversity will be expressed as the differing musical traditions come together will be a highlight of this project.

The Japan Foundation is looking forward to welcoming many people from throughout the ASEAN countries and beyond to share in the unique musical experience of ‘Drums and Voices’.
(*Performance in Brunei will feature musicians from Bruneian and Japan only.)

August 2013


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