October 12-19th, 2008
Nippon Kan AHAN coordinated this concert tour to the Colombian cities of Cali and Palmira this October where four performances were held in four different locations in the area. Over 12,000 Colombians, many for the very first time, enjoyed the powerful and dynamic performances of these very talented Japanese drummers. All of the performances were filled to capacity with crowds that received the drummers with thunderous enthusiasm.
The Matsukawa Kyougaku Taiko Drummers from Nagano, Japan were invited to perform at the special celebration held in Cali, Colombia as part of the 100th Year Anniversary of Japan-Colombia Relations Celebration Festival held in Colombia this past October. The Matsukawa drummers have performed in all parts of their native country of Japan, and internationally they have performed in the United States, Brazil, and Turkey as ambassadors of AHAN. Everywhere the drummers have traveled with AHAN, their concerts have been a overwhelming success.
Link here for articles written about the drummer’s concerts in the USA, Brazil and Turkey.
Cali, Colombia was first settled by a large number of Japanese immigrants, and there remains a fairly large Japanese community in Cali to this day. The Colombia Japanese Association is headquartered in Cali, and its new five-story facility is used to promote many Japanese cultural activities. The Colombia Japanese Association served as local host coordinators for the drummers visit and did a tremendous job promoting and organizing the series of concerts performed.
It took the Matsukawa drummers a full 24 hours to travel from Japan to Cali, yet after their arrival, the 10 drummers, not pausing for even a short rest after their long journey, set about the task of checking, tightening and tuning their drums in preparation for the first concert, scheduled for the very next day.
The first concert was to be a free concert performed for students at an occupational technical training school for low income residents at the Teatro Jorge Isaac Theatre, a 200-year-old theater in downtown Cali. A second concert was scheduled for the same evening; this time open to the general public.
There were about 700 people that were expected to attend the day concert for the occupational school students. Unfortunately, government funding allocated for bus transportation to the theater fell through and although disappointing, the morning concert had to be cancelled. The drummers were also disappointed, but Homma Kancho said, “Its okay…if the students cannot come to us, then we will go to them! Instead of the sightseeing and rest that was scheduled, we will go to the school ourselves. The purpose of this concert tour to Colombia is to extend and share the spirit of Japan. Instead of trying to move 700 students to come to see us in this theater, it will be much easier to move the 15 of us to see them at the school. So don’t be disappointed, we will go tomorrow!”
With Homma Kancho’s words, arrangements were made by Japanese Colombian Association Office coordinator and local concert coordinator, Ms. Ayako Nakata for us to visit the school the next day.
In the meantime, the cancellation allowed the drummers a chance to do a full dress rehearsal in the theater in preparation for the evening concert to come. The practice turned out to be quite beneficial, and even in a new environment, the evening performance for 1,200 people went exceptionally well. The drummers were extremely well-received. After the concert, the drummers greeted guests in the lobby, who gathered around with glee to share a moment with the drummers in person. The Japanese Colombian citizens in particular sincerely appreciated the efforts of the drummers who had come from so far away to bring them a reminder in song of their homeland and their heritage.
The next day was supposed to be a rest day and a day to do a little sight-seeing, but instead we headed for the Sena Occupational Opportunity School. This school is government supported in Cali, but also receives support from the Japanese government and Japanese businesses in Colombia. Together, the Sena School offers occupational skills training and human development for over 10,000 lower income students in the city.
The concert was held during lunch break and LOTS of students gathered to watch and listen to the powerful drumming performance. The crowd was so excited and happy after the performance, we were a little concerned when hundreds of students rushed in to meet the drummers in person. The drummers were all very happy to receive such an innocent outpouring of joy and excitement from the students. They said, “We missed out on shopping and sightseeing today, but to receive such an enthusiastic reception from these students makes all of us glad that we are here.” The drummers were all smiles as they greeted students with tears and smiles all around.
Time for Autographs
Young people making friends with the drummers
The concert on the third day was held at the Teatro al Aire Libre Los Cristales (Crystal Amphitheater) on the outskirts of Cali. This outdoor concert arena held 6,000 people who all came out under a beautiful evening sky. The Mayor of Cali himself came unannounced and to everyone’s surprise joined the drummers on stage. At the end, the Mayor spoke highly of the drummers and the importance of this kind of Japanese cultural awareness by the people of Cali.
The last performance was held about one hour’s drive northwest of Cali, in Palmira City. History tells us that Palmira City was the most successful Japanese settlement in Colombia during the pioneer days. Like many cities that were settled in Spanish colonial times, the city is built around a city square, with a very old cathedral on one side and a palace on the other. This concert was to be held in the city square and was sponsored by the city of Palmira. The square to our surprise had been set up with 4,000 plastic chairs. The sight of so many plastic chairs in the square was a good reminder of its historical importance as a place for communicating with local residents.
This was not our only surprise. As the drummers took the stage, before the concert began, all 4,000 people seated in the square, rose to their feet and stood with the 2,000 people behind them (that had come too late for a seat) to sing the Colombian and Japanese national anthems. Instrumental accompaniment was piped in over loudspeakers hung strategically about the square. Everyone stood at attention and sang both anthems with respect and pride. It seemed a little unreal, to be so far away from Japan as we stood in the Colombian town of Palmira, listening to the Japanese National Anthem sung by so many thousands at once. The show of respect for our small group was overwhelming and appreciated deeply by our group. In the square that day, this had been built so long ago by the ancestors of those who stood before us, lingered a sense of pride, manners and respect that touched all of our hearts.
This AHAN International Concert Series in Colombia was a team effort from the start. All the drummers have “a day job” at home in Matsukawa village. They practice every evening after work, from 7:00 pm until midnight on most days. If not for the support of family, friends and co-workers back home, the international concert tours of the Matsukawa Drummers would not be possible.
The Matsukawa Drummers touched the lives of 12,000 people in Colombia in the week we were here. As ambassadors, their music went a long way in teaching the Colombian people about the Japanese culture and furthering the development the friendship between these two countries. The successful diplomatic efforts of the Matsukawa Drummers I believe need to be recognized more in Japan and supported more by the Japanese government. Active support of organizations like the Matsukawa Kyougaku Taiko Drummers would bode well for the future of all Japanese diplomatic relationships and goodwill in the world.
Aikido Nippon Kan Founder Gaku Homma
|Nippon Kan AHAN General Headquarters|
|Local Event Coordinator||Sakae Machida (Japanese Colombia Association President)
Ayako Nakata (Japanese Colombia Culture Center Director)
Isabelle Tanaka (Japanese Colombia Association Cultural Division)
|Sponsors||Japanese Embassy to Colombia
Teatro Jorge Isaac Theater
Teatro al Aire Libre Los Cristales Theater
Sena Opportunity School
City of Cali
City of Palmira
|Performers||hinano no Kuni Matsukawa Kyougaku Taiko|
|Director and Coordinator||Gaku Homma (Nippon Kan AHAN General Headquarters)|
|Emily Busch (AHAN International Project Director)|
|Interpreters||Arturo Kawai (AHAN Bolivia)
Harumi Nishi (Japanese Colombia Association)
|Transportation||Shogo Tejima (Japanese Colombia Association)|