Chieko Kojima and Ten Ten by Nagata Shachu Japanese Taiko and Music Group

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Chieko Kojima and Ten Ten by Nagata Shachu 01
Photo Credit: Maiko Miyagawa

A Beautiful Performance – A Lasting Performance

Toronto Buddhist Church – March 14, 2020

With most shows being postponed or cancelled I was surprised that this performance was going ahead. The eventbrite ticket site indicated the organizers had taken extra precautions. The following advisory had been posted: “Please note this performance will proceed as planned. However, we strongly urge anyone who has flu-like symptoms to stay at home. We are also asking audience members to refrain from shaking hands and coming into close personal contact with one another. We will also have hand sanitizer at the ticket table for our guests to use, and spreading the seats further apart from one another.”

I ventured into the performance space with mixed feelings, I could sense that other audience members were feeling some trepidation. A few people in the audience wore surgical masks. At one point I coughed on a mint candy, most people in the audience turned and gave a fearful glance. Luckily I remembered to cough into my arm. I write this report fourteen days after the performance, my self-isolation complete and feeling no better or worse than the performance evening. I am hopeful that we will soon get back to enjoying live shows. Stay safe, stay strong and stay home if you can.

What makes for a great performance? Some would say beauty,  for others it may be the sound, for me, simplicity, sincerity, passion, rhythm and harmony, or combinations of all these elements go into making a memorable and enchanting performance. Spirituality, in a performance is important to me. Can you feel it? I am sure that I felt this performance, as much as I witnessed it, live and in person on Saturday, March 14 the Nagata Shachu presented a concert entitled: An Evening of Japanese Dance and Music featuring Chieko Kojima.

Chieko Kojima and Ten Ten by Nagata Shachu

Kojima, a principal dancer and founding member of the internationally renowned Japanese drumming ensemble Kodo, was joined by Ten Ten ensemble led by Aki Takahashi (shamisen/vocals), Kiyoshi Nagata (taiko), Heidi Chan (bamboo flute) and guest artists, Martin Posen (shamisen) and Tony Nguyen (taiko).

Ten Ten performs original music inspired by Japanese folk songs known as Min’yo. In the Japanese alphabet, “ten ten” refers to two dots used to change the sound of a syllable. In the same spirit, the ensemble strives to create its own unique voice for Japanese folk music breathing new life into this traditional art form.

The performance had a profound effect on me, it transported me to another place and time. It reminded me of my time (brief as it may have been) in Japan, the dancing and music that I witnessed, the joy and goodwill, the friendliness of strangers. All of these things came back to me as I sat spellbound by the beauty of the music and the dance.

Chieko Kojima moves effortlessly or so it seems. In most cases you can’t see her feet as they are covered by flowing kimono. Seemingly floating over the stage, without warning she pivots and is at once prepared to move and turn again. The music, and its heartbeat meter provide comfort and soothing to my soul. The movements, so precise, at times near animated, I am curious if there is a martial meaning in some of her actions. She has a sense of awareness that runs deep, her energy is palpable and I believe that it is felt by the entire audience in the intimate basement theatre of the church.

The organizers requested the audience to not take any photos, I respected their request, I share with you a couple of promo photos from the website. This is a version of one of the numbers they performed, Nishimonai. The concert concluded with the star performing Taiko – drumming “Hana Hachijo” . When Kojimasan pushed the big drum to the centre of the stage, Aki Takahashi positioned herself on one side of the drum and Kojimasan on the other. The two musicians began to drum. The performance built in intensity with Kojimasan taking on a solo of Taiko mastery. Upon ending this song it seemed as if the audience had been punched in the stomach and was breathless. I certainly felt this dramatic breath holding pause. A moment of complete silence, focus, stillness, followed by the crowd erupting with applause. Hontoni utsukushi pafomansu (A really beautiful performance)!

An independent journalist, based in Toronto, Canada. A professional musician and a fan of music, dance and the arts. I have written short stories, lyrics, poetry and reviews. I have been published in numerous online webzines. I’ve taught drumming and played in bands; I have felt the passion to create. I enjoy expressing that passion, the artistic experience, in words, reporting on the shows and musical experiences that I have witnessed.

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