Shime-daiko 締太鼓

Today was lesson day at Somemaru’s. In addition to my shamisen lesson, I also learned how to tighten a shime-daiko, which has to be slackened after every use in order to preserve the taut animal skin. The reason I wanted to learn how to do this is because I will buy a shime-daiko of my own before returning to the United States. If I am going to teach college students how to play, organize amateur yose productions, and host professionals in the future, I will to need to know how to use and care for this instrument properly.

Tightening and securing a shime-daiko takes a lot of muscle. In the yose, you use your hands, legs and feet – and two bachi (drum sticks) – for the job, and it can be dangerous if your not careful…  I was taught a couple ways to do tighten a shime-daiko today, both of which I was advised not do in front of practitioners of noh theater, which also regularly uses this drum. Somemaru has a rare book about the proper way to care for and play shime-daiko, so I made a copy of this for future reference.

Somemaru was very kind to give me an introduction to a respected taiko maker, the Maruoka family, which has been in business since Meiji 3 (1870). Somemaru and other professionals in various arts (e.g., noh, kabuki, etc.) rely on Maruoka Taiko for quality instruments. This is the kind of store you would do well to have an introduction to, and call before going. As with any instrument, there is a very wide range of prices, but what I found most interesting is that you do not simply go in and buy a drum. You discuss your needs – and budget – then the drum maker recommends a selected combination of parts: animal skin (kawa) for drum head and base, wooden body (), and cords (shirabe). Of course one also needs things such as bachi, a stand (teren), and a case for transport.

Finally, all Maruoka drums are handmade, and orders can take up to one or two months. This is perfect for me since I need at least that much time to save the money it will cost. I am excited to get my own shime-daiko and begin practicing. I should probably apologize to my neighbors ahead of time…

今日、師匠のお宅でお稽古日でした。三味線のお稽古と共に締太鼓の締め方を習わせていただきました。皮を守るため、締太鼓を使った後毎回毎々緩めないといけないことまでも… なぜ締め方を習いたかったというと、アメリカに帰国する前に締太鼓を買い求めようと思っているからです。将来に大学生に鳴り物を教えたり、素人落語会を行ったり、プロ噺家をアメリカに招待したりするのであれば、やはり自分で叩くようにならないといけないし、ちゃんと楽器のケアもしないといけません。


とてもありがたいことに、この間、師匠が評判の高い太鼓のお店に紹介してくださいました。丸岡太鼓店 (創業明治3年) と言いますが、染丸師匠のみならず、他の演劇(能楽、歌舞伎など)のプロにも信用されているお店だそうです。このようなお店では、ご紹介があった方がいいでしょうし、本社に訪ねる際、先にお電話していった方もいいかもしれません。どんな楽器にしても同じですが、締太鼓は幅広い価格帯で販売されています。僕にとって最も興味深かったのは、締太鼓一丁をそのまま買うんではなく、太鼓を何に使うや、予算などの相談の上、適当な部品 (皮、胴、しらべ) を進んでくださいます。もちろんですが、バチもテレンもケースも必要です。



Caricature Debut 戯画デビュー

Today was a practice day at Somemaru’s, so it was a pretty laid-back day. I got quite a bit of reading done between chores and other business.

Somemaru got something interesting in the mail today from a student who participated in a recent for-college-credit rakugo workshop. It was a caricature drawing of Somemaru and his assistants–Someza, Aisome, Ms. Nagamine (shamisen), and, none other than myself! I am the one in the drawing who seems to be hiding behind Somemaru. Come to think of it, I was “behind the scenes” for most of the several-day workshop, so this is most appropriate. In the drawing I am saying, “Totte ko~~ ka~~,” a pun on “should I go and grab it?” (the forgotten hoe in the story) and “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” (this is a chicken speaking, after all). This pun is the punchline–and title–of one of the kobanashi (comical anecdotes) that Somemaru let me perform during the workshop. Thanks to this talented student, I also made my caricature debut today!



Somemaru’s Contribution 染丸師匠の功績

Today a Kamigata yose shamisen player came to Somemaru’s house for a special practice session. She will be playing at a rakugo show in which Somemaru will be starring on January 7th. He will be performing the story “Tenka ichi ukare no kuzu yori” (also known by the title “Kami kuzu ya”). Like many Kamigata- (Osaka) style stories, this one has a lot of hamemono (music). This story includes enjoyable bits of traditional numbers from kabuki, joruri, and nagauta.

The incorporation of hamemono is one important characteristic that sets rakugo in Osaka apart from that in Tokyo. The former is a more festive and musical art. The are many reasons for this being the case, but this might be boiled down to the fact that Osaka is historically a major center of commerce, as opposed to Tokyo, the traditionally samurai/shogun-centered city of administration.

In the decades following WWII there has been much discussion and concern regarding whether the musical tradition of Kamigata might not die out. The problem, according to rakugo scholars, and storytellers like the late Katsura Bunshi V, was that there were not enough professional shamisen players involved, and the number of storytellers who knew how to incorporate music and instrumental sound effects was rapidly decreasing.

Somemaru is one person who is trying to ensure that the musical tradition of this art does not die out. In addition to publishing major works on his art and its music, he has personally trained six professional yose shamisen players, and even has two “grand pupils.” These eight artists make up close to half of the professional shamisen players who play for Kamigata rakugo.

When I asked Somemaru about why he took on ohayashi pupils, he said without pause for thought, “Because there weren’t enough. All of the older [shamisen] masters we’re dying off, and we had hardly anybody to play for us.” Katsura Beicho, Living National Treasure since 1995, has praised Somemaru specifically for this contribution to their art. This is no doubt another reason why Somemaru receives award after award, including a major one from the Japanese government in 2010.






Practice Day お稽古日

Today was an okeiko (practice) day for Somemaru. When his professional (rakugo) schedule permits, he dedicates one or two days a week to teaching shamisen and other hayashi instruments to non-rakugo pupils. Some of these students aspire to work, or are already working, professionally as shamisen players, but most are amateurs who practice without any intention of making a living with the skills they acquire from Somemaru.

My duties on practice days are to clean the house and set up instruments before practice, serve tea to and greet students as they arrive, make copies of sheet music as Somemaru requires, fill in on the atari-gane (hand gong) as needed, and put everything away after practice. Practice days are nice in that I have quite a bit of free time. Today I snacked on sweets, drank green tea, caught up on some reading, and borrowed Somemaru’s foot massager. But, the best part of practice days are being able to listening to the wonderful yose hayashi music!