ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program, Kimisen Katada (Mariko Watabe)*** and her apprentice Amy Smith, to document and talk to them about their study of Hayashi classical percussion. This is a Japanese classical form that is utilized as part of the musical accompaniment in Kabuki theater traditions. Along with Nagauta – shamizen and vocal music that comes out of the Kabuki tradition – Hayashi stands on its own as a performance style since Kabuki is an incredibly invested art form of time, money, and people to create the spectacular theater works, making it uncommonly available in its full glory.
Upon arriving to the Hollywood Japanese Cultural Institute, I was received by both artists dressed in kimonos. I stated that there was no need for them to dress in performance attire for my visit. Sensei (teacher) Katada responded that this is how they dress when they work together, that there are many other cultural protocol involved in this work in addition to learning the technical aspects of the music.
Once the women began the lesson, it was obvious what some of the different manners were that this cultural expression sustained. To name a few they, took formal sitting positions on the ground, an opening bow, and specific ways in creating vocal utterances at certain times of the playing. The two musicians played two different drums; Katada played the kitsuzumi (a drum utilizing different pitches), which is played upon the shoulder, and Smith worked on the ōtsuzumi, that is played by the hip. The instruments, depending on the song, vacillate between playing unison and creating counter rhythms to each other to create rhythmic phrases that have a beautiful bell effect due to the different pitches of the two drums. Sensei Katada will remind Smith of patterns as she verbally states them, using different syllables to represent the rhythmic hits, drums, and pitches: “su – ta – su – to ton – chiri – kara – chiri – koto.”