Japan's Festival Calendar: August
Yen Calling - Yutaka Fukuoka
Yen Calling is the brainchild of Tokyo-based musician Yutaka Fukuoka, who enjoyed moderate success and fame as a member of the late 80's New Wave band Pink.
Since going solo he has developed a musical style that I would call contemporary scat,.... often rhythmic, electronically treated vocals without words.
Yutaka Fukuoka has collaborated with musicians from around the world, notably Morocco, Cambodia, and Singapore, but his collaborations as Yen Calling remain dearest to his heart.
Yutaka Fukuoka grew up in Hamada, Shimane Prefecture, the heart of Iwami kagura country, and has been infected with the kagura bug since then, returning home to the Iwami area once a year and performing his unique mix of electronic rock combined with traditional kagura.
I recently attended 2 of his free concerts here. The Kagura group he works with is Nishimura Shachu, from Hamada, and like the more than 200 other kagura groups in the area, the dancers and musicians are completely amateur, by day they are truck drivers, fishermen, office workers, shopkeepers, etc but once in their kagura costumes and onstage, their performances are as professional as they come. Nishimura Shachu has also traveled to Australia and Europe to perform kagura.
Traditionally the music for kagura is provided by voice, flute, cymbals, drums, and taiko, and for these collaborations the modern instruments of drum kit, a multitude of percussion instruments, electric violin and electric guitar, and of course a variety of electronic devices with computer, are added to the mix.
The actual dances themselves were left unchanged, only the musical accompaniment was new, sometimes only a little different from the traditional, sometimes completely different.
Watch a movie of Yen Calling
The first dances of a Kagura performance are ritual purification dances, and the spacey, ethereal electronics really added another dimension to the flowing movements of the dancers, and the finale, with Susano battling the serpents was taken to another level with the added percussion and deep, growling voices.
Each year when Fukuoka returns home for these collaborations the performances have changed and been refined a little. I look forward to seeing and hearing how it develops next year.
Yen Calling takes place in August. The nearest station is Hamada Station on the JR San-in Line.