Nanka Nihon Minyo Kyokai
Another year and month have passed. I grow more aware of the concept of age and everything that comes with it, including but not limited to wrinkles, stereotypes, and of course, decades of knowledge. As I comb through old and new pictorial representations of myself and those around me, I explore my own views and possible misconceptions about music, aging, creativity, and “the elderly.”
Not unlike water, creativity can take on many forms, navigating and adapting to the mental and physical confines of its environment. Both have a tendency to change in taste, quality, or even become polluted, over time. I believe we are witnessing the end of an era in terms of creative pursuits, but are also on the cusp of a new one. It is my hope that those involved in the Arts continue to grow, shift, and enjoy the creative process, while being sure to "set the bar higher,” while remembering that they had one.
My interpretation of age is firmly rooted in the idea that one is only as old as their thinking and that there are two types of people: those with vitality and those without. I prefer to think of vitality in terms of one’s mental health and vigor, rather than one’s general health or physiological state. I view my creative pursuits as unique and individual yet interconnected challenges, designed to test me or bring me closer to this vitality— to shift, grow, and exercise my ability to change direction, while also remaining completely (and excitedly) dedicated to the craft. The ebb and flow of positive thoughts and creative thinking could very well be the fountain of youth for creative minds— a fountain I will surely tap into, throughout my exploration of technology, photography, and Minyo.
I caught a glimpse of this youthful creativity at the JCCSC Awards luncheon performance. Witnessing the juxtaposition of the younger vs. more mature attendees was quite entertaining. Needless to say, there were many seasoned players at the event.
Matsutoyo Kai’s attendance was in honor of Nanka Nihon Minyo Kyokai, the greater umbrella organization that encompasses the whole of Minyo and their accompanying musical groups, in Southern California— groups tasked with providing the education of traditional Japanese folk music, culture, and customs, within the United States.
In the past, Nanka Nihon Minyo Kyokai (NNMK) consisted of eleven groups, who first arrived in Little Tokyo, in 1965. This era is fondly remembered as the good time, by few remaining band members. Much like today, the core group of performers were joined by dancers and actors, further adding to the richness and authenticity of Japanese cultural performances, in Los Angeles.
The preservation of Japanese culture is of the utmost importance for Matsutoyo Kai, a fact frequently demonstrated by the kind repositioning of my kimono and the occasional glare, when my demeanor appears too outwardly American. Much like my obi, my demeanor too requires adjustment. While this is (admittedly) stressful at times, it is quite warranted. No one wants to hear or see an off-kilter cultural emissary— after all, a performer’s everything is a reflection of their music.
Being heavily involved in Japanese music and culture, I hope for the sustainability and growth of this music, in the years to come. Regardless of it’s country of origin, it's truly great music and as a multi-disciplined musician (who performs both professionally and recreationally on various Asian and Western instruments), I can easily say that this music has soul. It demands much of a person, but the practice, social customs, and the washing, ironing, and care of one’s kimono are absolutely worth it. If you ever have a chance to catch a performance, come out and see us— you won’t need earplugs!