Nov. 26, 2017
The duo of senior performer Masayuki Sakamoto and new comer Yuta Sumiyoshi (that’s me) was first formed in 2012 for the piece Kusa-wake in the “Amaterasu” production. For the five years that followed, I think I have spent more time than anyone else watching Masayuki perform in pieces such as Kei Kei, Hekireki, Kaden, and Dan.
I am grateful for the fact that I often was given the chance to perform right opposite Masayuki.
We played the piece Kusawake in Amaterasu, at Kanamaru-za, in “Mystery,” and “DADAN”.
That means we must have played that piece together in front of an audience over four hundred times to date.
Masayuki often said, “I wonder how many times we’ll play that together again…”
So when the day came when I said to myself, “There’s only two times to go!,” I felt a wave of emotion well up inside me.
I seem to recall we were working on the shime-jishi taiko part of the piece SHAKE
However, what we were focusing on wasn’t phrasing or strokes. It was the atmosphere you create before you drum.
If you know SHAKE, then you probably know what that means, because SHAKE begins with a lead-in by the shime-jishi drum. Masayuki taught me that before you play the first beat, you should feel as though you are gathering the eyes and ears of the hundreds of audience members to all focus on your two hands.
“When you want to diffuse or draw in energy, you express that by changing the angle of your chest!”
Even now, I still recall his words when I take the stage.
I open up my chest when I move forward, and I drop my chest when it’s my turn to perform the backing part. The accents of the sound, and expression using my chest, it’s really about the music and your body speaking the same language.
Masayuki and I often enjoyed drinks together. Whether we were in Japan or abroad, he often took me out for drinks. (Or maybe I was the one who said “Let’s go!” more often than not…)
The first time Masayuki came to the Kodo dormitory to drink with me, I was so happy to drink with him that I drank too much in the first half hour and collapsed, so poor Masayuki was left drinking alone.
When it was Masayuki’s 30th birthday, I planned a huge BBQ in the garden at Kodo Village for him.
When we drink together, we talk a lot. It ranges from rambling about this and that to talking in depth about taiko. I got to know Masayuki’s character and nature, I learned about the mottos he holds dear, and we had a lot of silly fun together.
Our memories include the time we went to a yakiniku (BBQ) restaurant that wasn’t all-you-can-eat, and panicked in horror at the tremendous bill we racked up.
The time I went shopping with indecisive Masayuki to chose his new guitar.
The time we jumped in the sea, but the waves in the Sea of Japan were so powerful they threw us up onto the rocks.
We became hooked on having jam sessions with me on ukelele and Masayuki on guitar.
One time, we went for a run together before going out to drink German beer so the effects of the two activities would cancel each other out. This led us to come up with a saying that compares the quality of a “zero” from not doing something to the qualilty of the “zero” you get by canceling things out.
Each one of these memories were seeds we sowed that brought us closer together as colleagues and led to our perfectly matched sound on stage.
Masayuki is a guy who turns fake stoicism into his reality.
No matter how light his clothing and how cold he looks, he will say, “I’m not cold.”
No matter how tough the situation or how pale his face goes, he will say, “It’s a breeze.”
He is competitive about weird things, so even if he isn’t interested in something, if you cheer him on he will get in there and do it.
Masayuki is going to graduate from the Kodo group, and that means that I am going to graduate from playing with Masayuki.
My goal all along has been to stand out more than Masayuki, and now I am going to graduate from spending my days standing alongside him on stage.
There’s only two performances left. Niigata and Sado.
The “DADAN 2017” tour will continue throughout December, but Mitsuru Ishizuka and I were double-cast for this tour and Mitsuru is taking over for the December performances. So I will only perform two more times with Masayuki before the changeover.
Whether I cry or smile about it, there’s just two times to go.
Please, come and see our Niigata performance!
Please, come and see our Sado performance!
*Please note that this blog was translated after the two performances listed above.