Japan’s Premier Solo Taiko Drummer
Eitetsu Hayashi was born in a monastery in Hiroshima Prefecture in 1952, the youngest of eight siblings. While in his teens, he was inspired by the Beatles and started learning drums, and formed a rock band with friends. He was aspiring to be a graphic designer at the same time. On failing to get admission to college to study graphic art in 1970, he became a “Ronin” (a Japanese term for a person studying to re-take their exams) in Tokyo and later started learning fine-brush (high realism) painting. The following year, he was invited to join the Sado-Ondekoza, a unique “Wadaiko” group living an ascetic and cult-like communal lifestyle with rigorous physical training including marathon-running on the remote Sado Island.
Sado-Ondekoza was initially formed to raise funds for a new university on the Island. Hayashi’s input as composer and arranger helped to build its unusual taiko style. He was the group’s soul figure and top player for ten years. A chance to opportunity to perform Maki Ishii’s Mono-Prism with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Seiji Ozawa in 1975 marked a turning point in his life. It led to many invitations to join the world tours of some of the prestigious names in music, such as Hiroyuki Iwaki and the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Takashi Asahina and the Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra, all of which had won him critical acclaim. In 1981, he left Sado-Ondekoza to seek new expressions in music that would be unfettered by pre-set forms. He founded a new “Wadaiko” group, Kodo, of which he was director and performer. But he went independent the following year to continue with his search for innovative interpretations of the Japanese taiko drum. He gave his first solo recital in December the same year, and from this he began collaborations with artists and groups across the music spectrum: rock, jazz, modern music, folk music, etc. Thereafter, he went on to create a new method of soloing which requires techniques and physical stamina previously unknown in traditional Japanese “Wadaiko” playing. Using a unique combination of “Wadaiko” drums, he created ad performed original music in a countless succession of entirely new experimental musical endeavours.
In 1984, he made his debut with the orchestral work by Shuko Mizuno, Symphonic Metamorphosis Part 3, both as the first player and soloist of “Wadaiko” to perform in Carnegie Hall. Since 1986, Hayashi has been touring around the world with his taiko group or as a duo with the jazz pianist, Yosuke Yamashita. Wherever he went, he garnered rave reviews as well as the highest acclaim as the one and only taiko soloist in modern music history. In October 1998, he was the first Japanese taiko soloist ever to perform at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Hall with his concert, “Sen Nen no Kamoku (The Quiet Ages)”. His charismatic solo performance of Isao Matsushita’s Hi-Ten-Yu with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kent Nagano in June 2000 in Berlin’s Waldbühne wowed the audience of over 20,000, and was broadcast around the world.
In June 2001, he collaborated with the Korean percussion group, Kim Duk-Soo / Samul nori to present the first Japanese-Korean Music Festival. Its initial success led to two more festivals in Japan and Korea.
Since 1998, Hayashi has been composing new works and staging concerts inspired by other artists – whether in terms of their art form or their way of living – in what he calls “taiko theatre”. Such concert tours include Man Ray, The Wings of Flightless Birds which celebrated the art of Jakuchu Ito (1716-1800), and similarly themed concerts celebrating the art of Yajuro Takashima, Takumi Asakawa, Léonard Tsuguharu Fujita, etc. which were taken to all parts of Japan. The year 2007 saw him performing with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra at the Suntory Hall, the Century Orchestra Osaka at the Hyogo Performing Arts Centre, and solo performances celebrating his 25th anniversary in taiko music, which was distinguished by the first ever arrangement throughout in a taiko concerto format, under the baton of Chikara Iwamura. He was commissioned by the National Theatre of Japan to produce, arrange and perform a trilogy of concerts entitled A Thousand Drums, which took three years to realize and were staged in 2008. In December 2010, he staged and performed the concert Gassan II at the Suntory Hall, which was the first solo recital he gave in eleven years, and lasted for more than an hour of taiko music using an eclectic selection of Japanese taiko drums. The concert also featured the violinist, Iwao Furusawa as his special guest. A live recording was made and later released as DVD.
Currently, apart from giving performances, Hayashi is actively participating in a wide range of creative projects, such as producing celebration activities, films, scoring for plays, commissioning new works for taiko, and acting as music director, etc. Among his writings is the book Ashita no Taiko-uchi e (To the Taiko Players of Tomorrow)
Hayashi received Japan’s prestigious 47th Education Minister’s Art Encouragement Prize in 1997 and the 8th Award for Promotion of Traditional Japanese Culture from the Japan Arts Foundation in 2001. He has been the guest professor of Senzoku Gakuen College of Music since 2004, and special lecture for Tokyo University of the Arts since 2005. 2011 is the 40th anniversary of Hayashi’s performing activities.
EITETSU FU-UN no KAI
Makoto Tashiro, Shuichiro Ueda, Mikita Hase, and Tasuku Tuji (from left)
Top young taiko drummers active in Japan who resonate with Eitetsu Hayashi’s music make up this unit. It has a fluid membership of 10 or so taiko drummers. In addition to performances of Hayashi’s original composition, SHICHISEI, for big taiko ensemble, the necessary number of taiko drummers join in when Hayashi, who has a career as a soloist, creates an ensemble. “EITETSU FU-UN no KAI” in the dictionary refers to a favorable opportunity for a great man to take advantage of a situation to achieve his aspirations. The phrase was put to use as the name of the unit because it reflects the spirit of the unit activities. Since the unit was founded in 1995, its overwhelming power and live performances have elicited a strong response around the country. It has participated in Hayashi’s acoustic tour as well as ensemble tours “Jakuchu / The Wings of flightless birds”, “Hikari wo Maku Hito / A Painter Who Planted The Seeds of Light” and “Mio no Hasu / A Lotus Flower Along the Water Channel.” and more. EITETSU FU-UN no KAI has also participated in festivals like the Japan-Korea Music Festival. In addition, the members each pursue their own careers in unit and as soloists in the regions where they are from. The summer of 2005 marked the 10th anniversary of the unit. Since that time, it has started full-fledged activities as an independent unit with Shuichiro Ueda, Mikita Hase, Makoto Tashiro, and Tasuku Tuji as key members.
The unit delights the audience with an extraordinary taiko ensemble in various formats while exhibiting the individuality of each member. Inheriting Hayashi’s aesthetic sense, the unit puts on a tight show with a good, grainy sound, tone sequences that flexibly combine the slow and fast, strong and gentle, and polished sound landscapes.
Performing onstage with EITETSU FU-UN no KAI will be Buffalo-born Joe Small, who currently pursues a graduate degree in dance at UCLA. As Mr. Hayashi’s only non-Japanese apprentice, Mr. Small will perform as part of the US tour along with FU-UN no KAI members Mikita Hase, Ueda Shuichiro, Makoto Tashiro, and Tasuku Tsuji.
Dianthe “Dee” Spencer is a pianist who has recorded with former Tower of Power vocalist Lenny Williams and Aretha Franklin’s favorite drummer Bernard “Pretty” Perdie. She has been a featured performer at the Beijing, Cork, Tasmanian and Dresden International Jazz Festivals. In various settings, Dee has performed with jazz greats Jimmy Scott, Louis Bellson, Clark Terry, Branford Marsalis, John Handy, Greg Osby, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Regina Carter and R&B sensation LEDISI. Dee’s debut CD, Vintage School was released in 2002.
Dee is also Director of the School of Music and Dance at San Francisco State University where she founded the jazz studies undergraduate degree program in 1990. She earned and Ed.D from the University of San Francisco; M.M. from Washington University in St. Louis; and a B.S. from Florida A&M University. Dee served on the piano faculty at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. Dee served on the governing boards of the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) and the San Francisco Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). She currently serves on the board of the Community Music Center. She is past director of the Clifford Brown/Stan Getz Fellowship Award combo for the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts (NFAA), GRAMMY All-Star National High School Jazz Combo and the SFJAZZ All-Star High School Ensemble. This ensemble competed at the Essentially Ellington Competition for Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2002 and 2003. She was musical director/conductor for the TheaterWorks production of RAISIN'. Dee was a recent performer and adjudicator/clinician at Walt Disney World's 2010 Jazz Celebration.