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Kusabi: A Wedge to the Edge of Japan Cool2012.10.30

    Kusabi (楔), a wedge, lynchpin, bond. Kusabi (クサビ), a collaboration of Japan’s leading edge artists, musicians, dancers, and performers, and a concept proposed by the most innovative Shamisen player in the world, Hiromitsu Agatsuma.


    Kusabi Concept, “You haven’t seen anything yet: Japan Evolution. Rising from the roots of Japanese tradition, as artists and musicians we want to reach out to the world with an innovative expression that moves people in all cultures.” ~Hiromitsu Agatsuma.


    Moved by this mission, and in search of a new style that expresses the essence of what is cool and connects Japanese innovation and tradition, some of Japan’s leading performing artists and musicians have rallied around Kusabi as the stage for showing the emergence of a new Japanese style. On Saturday Oct 27, 2012, Kusabi held its second performance in what promises to be a series that will surely gain a global following. Drawn by the power of the participating artists, and of the Kusabi concept, they filled the Shibuko Public Hall, which seats over 2000 people. Thanks to the producer Ogata Yoshiyuki, I was able to attend this mind opening performance and meet the artists.


    To gain an impression of the style, you can watch a trailer introducing Kusabi from their first performance on Nov 3, 2011, And you can meet the artists through interviews in Japanese at the Kusabi website, Here are my impressions of the Kusabi Artists who performed this year.


    Hiromitsu Agatsuma, Shamisen Player, Born in 1973, Agatsuma began playing the Shamisen at the age of six, was winning national competitions in his teens and twenties with the Tsugaru Shamisen, and made his debut album in September 2001. Since then he has toured Europe, Australia, and Brazil, and is internationally known for his innovative and flexible style of performance. Rising from traditional roots, he plays in perfect synchrony with musicians and dancers ranging from rock guitar and Taiko drums, to Japanese vocal artists, tap and hip hop dancers, and even dramatic Samurai Sword performances.


    Eitetsu Hayashi, Taiko Drummer, Hayashi began his career performing in groups, and then went solo in 1982, debuting in Carnegie Hall in 1984 as a Wadaiko Soloist, and gaining international acclaim. He draws powerful rhythms from the drum, even from the earth itself, and is also appreciated for his ability to engage and perform with other artists.


    Kazufumi Miyazawa, Musician Songwriter, Miyazawa is famous for his artistry and versatility, and is a fabulous performer. His deep voice and relaxed style, as well as the poetry of his songs had people entranced and on their feet. His song Sakura, inspired by the Sakura tree that survived the Tsunami in March 2011, is an original and moving expression of an old theme running through the Japanese spirit.


    Miyavi, Solo Artist Guitarist, . Miyavi is soft-spoken and approachable in person, yet on the stage is a rock star of epic proportions! His performance is riveting. He plays the electric guitar like no one you have ever seen, without using a pick, making full use of all of his fingers, transforming the guitar into an electrifying percussive stringed instrument. He has performed over 150 times in about 30 countries for equally riveted fans in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, who love how he frees the guitar to fit with jazz, funk, and hip hop dance rhythms.


    ORIENTARHYTHM, Dance Performer, ORIENTARHYTHM combines traditional Japanese movements from martial arts and Nunchaku with street dance elements. But they perform these movements in front of a screen onto which is projected the most amazing series of computer graphics and beautiful geometric transformations, all of which are perfectly synchronized to the dancers’ movements. The perfection is breathtaking, particularly when you realize that they cannot see what is projected on the screen behind them. The dancers seem to move in and out of the screen, and they seem to be creating the effects on the screen, as if the images were literally projected out of their body movements.


    Kamui, Samurai Sword Artist, . Tetsuro Shimaguchi is the organizer of Kamui, the best-known artists of the Japanese Sword as a performing art. Movie Director Quentin Tarentino commissioned Kamui to do the choreography for sword fighting scenes in Kill Bill Vol 1, and Kamui has performed at the John F. Kennedy Center in New York, the Edinburgh Festival in England, and the Japan EXPO in France. Kamui’s performance of fighting with multiple attackers is much more than just choreography. It is a story with drama and pathos.


    Ayano Umema, Okinawan Singer, Umema Ayano was born in 1985 in Okinawa, and from early primary school began learning the Okinawan stringed Sanshin, as well as Okinawan folk songs. Winning awards at the age of 19, she began writing and releasing songs herself in 2006, and now travels all over Japan, winning over fans with her lovely voice and presence. She has collaborated with famous violinists and other musicians, captivating audiences with the soul of Okinawa.


    Each of these artists is magic on their own, but under the Kusabi concept, they represent a new identity for Japan, a wedge to the edge of the best of Japan Cool.



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    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

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