The World of Yosebayashi 寄席囃子の世界

Today was a red-letter day. In commemoration of the publication of his “life work,” Kamigata rakugo yosebayashi no sekai (The World of Kamigata Rakugo Yose Music, Sôgensha Press 2011), Somemaru held a special concert that offered the audience a unique behind-the-scenes look at the hayashi orchestra in action, which is usually hidden from audience view. Even ichiban daiko and niban daiko (first and second drum, respectively, with which audiences are beckoned) were performed in audience view.

The bulk of the show consisted of a major yosebayashi recital (with three shamisen players!), but also included were several informative–and entertaining–talks by Somemaru, a hilarious geisha-parody ongyoku (musical) manzai performance by Anesama Kings (Katsura Ayame & Hayashiya Somejaku), rakugo by Hayashiya Someza and Somemaru, and the formal announcement that six of Somemaru’s shamisen pupils were being given the professional name Hayashiya. The show was ended in proper yosebayashi fashion, with wakare daiko (the parting drum, used to send audiences on their way after shows). Somemaru played drums and another instruments throughout the show, and, since it is generally the lower-level hanashika who play percussion instruments, this was a unique treat.

Somemaru publishing a book such as this one–which includes more than 200 songs on four CDs, sheet music for all songs, and much commentary–and putting on a show like tonight’s sends a message not only to general readers and the audience that music (yosebayashi, hamemono, etc.) is important–indispensable–to the art, but it also sends a strong message to performers–many of whom fail to see that Kamigata Rakugo without music would cease to be Kamigata Rakugo.

During my time with Katsura Bunshi V (1930-2005), he spoke to me about the importance of music in Kamigata Rakugo, and his concern that the former might soon die out. I know for a fact that Bunshi shishô, whose repertoire was loaded with music-filled stories, would be proud of the work that Somemaru has done and continues to do. In many regards, Somemaru is ensuring that the next generation will enjoy Kamigata Rakugo the way his predecessors meant it to be enjoyed. Because of this, Hayashiya Somemaru IV is a living national treasure who only needs to be officially recognized as such.






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