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     Volume 4 Issue 23 | December 3, 2004 |

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The Torrent of Drumming

Mustafa Zaman

In the evening of November 23, at the auditorium of Osmani Memorial Hall, the first beats of drums must have thrown many unsuspecting audiences off their seat. They had the opportunity to wake up to the very absurdity of putting the sticks and the tightly stretched hide of the drums together to make ear-shattering noise. Noise with its staccato rhythms, noise that may never put anyone to sleep but sure to put them in a trance.

Haguruma, the Japanese drum concert was loud. Drumming is, it seems, a visceral act of availing the ultimate opportunity for an ultimate emotional outlet. Those who readily give into the widely-held belief that the loudest music in the world is Rock-n-roll, then they should attend an Asian drum concert like the Haguruma. It simply puts the rockers to shame.

The drummers of the House of Haguruma are juveniles. Kayko Sakaoka founded the institution 28 years ago to provide space for the juveniles. She envisaged that the House would accommodate the youth to help them cut down on their delinquency. Delinquents trained to be musician; the idea was to provide the young, straying school-goers who were struggling to cope with the pressure at home and at school to keep them out of trouble. By way of protecting the youth from degenerating into ineptitude, Sakaoka's House has been a soul provider for the last 28 years, giving opportunities to young people who would otherwise not have taken up the drum sticks to make music.

This it is the second visit of the Haguruma group of musicians to Bangladesh. The first time they visited Bangladesh the group enjoyed an exposure in Gazipur. The International Angel Association, a Japanese development organisation, played the host last year. They were instrumental in bridging the two cultures together through music on this occasion too. It is through their mediation that the Embassy of Japan in Dhaka and the Shilpakala Academy of Bangladesh took the initiative to invite the House of Haguruma to perform at the Osmany Memorial hall. And they came here to provide a clarion call, -- to let the Bangladeshi counterpart know that there must be some sort of efforts to rescue juveniles who fail to meet the standard set by the society out of their predicament. Those who drop out of the prescribed general courses at schools, need a hand to get on with their life and to try out alternative routes. And the stunning performance of this young group has amply proven that, given the proper opportunity and care, they too can reach a level of achievement in a chosen artistic field.

The evening saw a series of renditions by the young musicians. Each piece had a title that corresponded with the purpose. The first one was "Illusion", a composition that depicted young drug abusers who thrive on paint thinner and other synthetic drugs. It was meant as an evocation to God to make all of them realise the true gift of life. Illusion was an eight-piece composition, with each of the musicians beating on a set of two drums.

As the audience got over the initial jolt, the thunderous beats won them over. And apart from the crying babies, for whom the deafening beats were a bit too much, the rest of the audience quickly got enmeshed in the mode.

It was a hearing-impaired child that first spurred Sakaoka to think up the idea of a musical group, and that group had to play a drum ensemble. It is easy to understand the effect of drums on hearing-impaired child; it hits one with its velocity, so much so that it reverberates in the body. This bodily interaction, this reverberation inside the heart is one thing that makes it a visceral experience.

The subsequent pieces showed how even with drums, musical concert could be diverse. As different drums came into play at once -- sometimes in harmony and sometimes in calculated discord -- they initiated the changes in tenor. "Dawn after the days of fighting" the second composition amply proved the different contours of the soundscape associated with percussion instruments. The rim--shots that fused with the real beats provided a symphonic quality.

Half way through the concert, the conductor, the eldest musician who had been providing the youngsters with cues by shouting those shouts that are distinctly Japanese, asked the audience to join in. As some of them did, it proved that beating the drum is not easy as it seems, let alone pull off a full-fledged concert.

The third piece "Playing drum in dancing" drew on the tradition of the Hokuriku region. In Hokuriku drum playing goes a long way. People perform this title wearing masks as an offering to God. The House of Haguruma played it, and they hope to keep this age-old tradition alive. Among the four more renditions of titles that followed, the last one was called "Raging torrent". This piece epitomised the fierce emotional engagement that lures the young to the thunderous sounds of drums.

The innovative concept of the House of Haguruma has also friendship among the nations in mind. They came to Dhaka and left a mark in the hearts of many Bangladeshis. Both the Ambassador of Japan to Bangladesh and the Mother of the House of Haguruma, Sakaoka stressed the need to reach out to the global community. Haguruma musical group had set an example of putting things back on the rail, should any one care for their younger generations, they must follow suit.


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