Ei Ja Nai Ka

Matt the Taiko Drummer

How dreadful it must’ve been to live life through the wire, conspired under a twofold gaze perception and sight. Isei and Nisei alike forcibly relocated through dire straits during a time where making two wrongs made socially right. Bred in captivity due to land laws and executive order, and dehumanized due to turmoil spilling past it’s borders. Nikkei were deprived of due process, sent to degraded fairgrounds, but found their whereabouts with a writ of habeas corpus.

A Day of Remembrance for all those incarcerated and downtrodden. A Fight for the Forgotten, thunderous strikes synchronized to pay homage. Heavy blows amplified not softened as they collide with taut rawhide. Sounds differ by the barrel patterns internally inscribed. Fish scales, turtle shells, force majeure inspired designs, concealed allegories within like Lascaux, sealed airtight. Unlike auditorium echoes which undeniably escape outside, regardless of pride, performers welcome the audience and breach the divide.

We are all one despite the split of the Pacific, sharing heart and mind, the same twofold spirit. Adhering to our beliefs and moral tradition, valuing those we hold dearest hoping that they visit. In the wake Tulelake we till the land, rejuvenating once depleted sediment. We shed light during the ancestral Obon Odori. Third Law in motion with actions so devoted they share the same sentiment. Frenetic energy matched during joyous occasions and matsuris. The shuffling of feet, the beating of bachi, foreheads glistening above hachimaki, reverb ringing past streets of the nihonmachi, truly embodies yamato damashii.

Matt is a longtime performing member of San Jose Taiko that I met through mutual friends. I’ve always been interested in taiko drumming from the performances I’ve seen at the Obon Odori (festival honoring ancestors), Japantown Second Friday’s, and most recently the 45th Anniversary San Jose Taiko Concert. I was entranced by the level of precision, coordination, and spirit maintained throughout the 1-1/2 hour long kumi daiko performance. Matt’s 23 year background with taiko drumming, and history of performing at Tulelake (former Japanese Internment Camp) shows how commitment to craft never goes unnoticed.

Ei Ja Nai Ka is a piece composed by PJ Hirabayashi that engages the performers and audience members in the celebration of the Isei’s (first generation) work in agriculture, mining, etc. The first verse is about war hysteria and discrimination that Japanese Americans were face with, and their gradual rise from oppression. This includes, Alien Land Laws, Executive Order 9066, and Ex parte Endo. The second verse is about the intricacies and power of the taiko drum. The third verse is about taiko being a present day tool for teaching, wellness, and celebration. The references to twofold gaze and twofold spirit comes from Miyamoto Musashi’s philosophy shared in The Book of Five Rings. The Day of Remembrance is a day commemorated to Japanese American internment, and is also an annual event held by San Jose Taiko. Fight for the Forgotten is a foundation that was founded by Justin Wren, and their mission is to create sustainable communities within the Congo. Lascaux is a cave in France that houses well preserved ancient auroch wall paintings. The phrase “We Are All One” comes from MMA fighter Genki Sudo, who entered the ring with a flag that represented all nations. The words Yamato Damashii translates to Japanese Spirit, and also was the nickname of MMA fighter Enson Inoue, who helped victims of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

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