Decorative Knots for Atarigane and Shumoku

Angled kane and shumoku.jpg

I recently started a serious study of knots and quickly found out how bottomless this world of knot-tying really is. During my Tokyo Edo Bayashi intensive (read about it here) last June, Suzuki sensei showed me his method of tightening shimedaiko including all of the knots. But for the atarigane and shumoku, sensei simply showed me his instruments and advised me to look up some decorative knots and experiment after I got home. While this was a fun activity, I realized the challenges of not only learning how to tie them, but to find the correct knots in the first place. The internet usually makes information searches fast and easy but my lack prior knowledge made it frustrating to comb through hundreds of tutorial photos, videos, and useless web links. For knots, it turns out that you need to know the exact name of the knot before any good search results will show up. This was even more difficult when I was trying to find the English name of Japanese knots, or trying to reverse engineer knots from photos. Fortunately there are a lot of great tutorials online when you start with the correct knot names, and I list all of the ones I use here.

My research is knot done yet, but these labeled photos will provide a good starting point for anyone looking to add some color and style to their atarigane and shumoku. I don’t believe that there is a single correct way to approach this, and I would encourage everyone to experiment with different combinations of these and other knots. Much like the study of the Edo Bayashi music, there is no end once you start going deeper and deeper down this path. It would be fun to see everyone’s versions so please send me a photo if you try this yourself.

The left-side photo below shows a 5.5 Betsubiki atarigane with some decorative string I repurposed from a pair of chappa. The shumoku (Marukuma Edo Bayashi) string was originally on one of my other kane, and at 93cm it’s probably too long. I might go with something like 60 - 70cm for the shumoku string (length before tying). The common colors I see are purple, red, orange, and white, but it might be interesting to try other colors or combinations. The right-side photo (orange string) shows my experimentation with locking loop knots so that the string length is easily adjusted for different playing styles. Of the two, I prefer the adjustable grip hitch for its ability to hold more firmly. I added a variation so that the end of the string points down rather than out to the side. This photo also shows the proper orientation of the kane where the string holes are toward the bottom.

There are some bonus photos at the end showing two knots: the cowboy bowline and the snake knot. I used an old piece of string from my vibraphone to practice these knots before trying it on the real material. I would highly recommend doing this to get more familiar with the many different techniques. The cowboy bowline is typically used as the starting knot for shimedaiko and is called moyai musubi もやい結び in Japanese. Although I considered similarly breaking down all of the knots I list here, I decided knot to because doing your own research is invaluable, and I wanted to keep the length of this blog entry reasonable. Feel free to send me any follow-up questions. Good luck and happy tying!

Purple kane with shumoku.jpg
Orange kane and shumoku.jpg

Poacher’s knot

Adjustable grip hitch
(variation of passing the string through the last loop down)

Snake knot
Tsuyu musubi つゆ結び

Shamrock knot (sailor’s cross)
Agemaki musubi あげまき結び

Japanese square knot
Kanou musubi かのう結び

Purple close up copy.jpg
Orange close up copy.jpg

Snake knot

Japanese square knot

Triangle lanyard knot

Double connection knot

Overhand knot

shumoku top copy.jpg
shumoku bottom copy.jpg

Snake Knot

snake knot loose copy.jpg
snake knot tight copy.jpg

Cowboy Bowline Knot

Cowboy bowline loose copy.jpg
Cowboy bowline tight copy.jpg
green string.jpg

Interview: Kenny Endo talks Edo Bayashi and Wakayama Shachu

Photo credit: Toyo Miyatake Studio

Photo credit: Toyo Miyatake Studio

Recently I had the pleasure of talking with Kenny Endo about Edo Bayashi and Wakayama Shachu. Kenny needs no introduction among taiko players, as he is one of the most important artists and teachers in the development of the North American taiko scene. I could have asked him about so many different topics, but this interview was focused on Kenny's experiences while living in Japan and his insights into the growing interest in Edo Bayashi (traditional festival music of Tokyo) and Kotobuki Jishi (traditional lion dance of Tokyo) outside of Japan. 

I had known Kenny as a kid growing up near Tokyo in Saitama. He was studying hogaku hayashi (classical Japanese music, such as noh and kabuki) with Saburo Mochizuki, and I was part of a youth taiko ensemble taught by Saburo sensei. In the interview, we talk about one memorable performance at the Maruki Bijutsukan (museum of internationally acclaimed artists Iri and Toshi Maruki) where my youth group shared the stage with Sukeroku Daiko's Saburo sensei, his wife, Kenny, and Yukihiro Miyauchi in a presentation of Edo Bayashi and other pieces. Many years later, I moved to Honolulu to study with Kenny and perform as a member of his ensemble. When I mention to someone that I also got a master of music degree from the University of Hawaii on the side, it sounds like a funny joke but it's true. Kenny was my reason for being there, and I was lucky that the UH music program had a no-thesis degree option where I could present a one-hour recital instead.

It was especially interesting to hear Kenny's stories about Wakayama sensei, Maru sensei, Suzuki sensei, and the early days of introducing this music to North America. Whether you are into Edo Bayashi or not, hearing Kenny's thoughts about taiko, traditional music, and learning perpetually is invaluable. Our conversation was on a specific and narrow topic so some readers may want to do some additional research to fill in the contextual holes. A good place to start would be my content relating to Suzuki sensei at the links below. Kenny kindly provided some of his music to be included in the interview. The tracks are Forest Festival, Spirit of Rice, and Symmetrical Soundscapes, which are on his albums Jugoya, Hibiki, and Eternal Energy. We chose these excerpts because they highlight the influence of Edo Bayashi on Kenny's compositions. I have always noticed a distinct and unique quality in all of Kenny's albums. It's hard to describe in words, but I hear a combination of an exceptional concept of sound and an artistic vision expressed purely from the inner self.


Photo credit: Kenji Yamazaki

Photo credit: Kenji Yamazaki

About Kenny

Photo credit: Shuzo Uemoto

Photo credit: Shuzo Uemoto

One of the leading personas in contemporary percussion and rhythm, KENNY ENDO is at the vanguard of the taiko genre, continuing to carve new territory in this Japanese style of drumming.  A performer, composer, and teacher of taiko, he has received numerous awards and accolades, including very special recognition in Japan—he was the first foreigner to be honored with a “natori,” a stage name, in Japanese classical drumming. Kenny Endo was a featured artist on the PBS special “Spirit of Taiko” in 2005.  He has performed for such musicians as the late Michael Jackson and Prince, opened for The Who, performed a duet with singer Bobby McFerrin, and is featured on the soundtracks for Kayo Hatta’s film “Picture Bride”, Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now”, and worked on James Cameron’s “Avatar”.  He has had a day named for him in by the Mayor of Honolulu “Kenny Endo Day”, and was honored by the National Endowment for the Arts for American Masterpieces. He has released 10 CDs of original music. Kenny is a consummate artist, blending Japanese taiko with rhythms influenced by his jazz background and by collaborations with artists from around the world.  Kenny's taiko are provided courtesy of Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten. 

www.kennyendo.com

Summer Taiko Institute: Edo Kotobuki Jishi with Kyosuke Suzuki sensei

North American Taiko Conference Taiko Jam performance of Edo Kotobuki Jishi

North American Taiko Conference Taiko Jam performance of Edo Kotobuki Jishi

What is Summer Taiko Institute?
Summer Taiko Institute (STI) is an intensive course entirely separate from the North American Taiko Conference (NATC). It is typically a 3-day program that runs immediately before or after NATC. This year, there are two different STI proposals: Women and Taiko (before NATC) and Edo Kotobuki Jishi (after NATC). Because my involvement is with the Edo Kotobuki Jishi (traditional shishimai, or lion dance, of Tokyo) program, this blog post will be about that course. The shishimai STI is offered by Kyosuke Suzuki sensei, who taught the same topic during the 2011 STI in San Jose. I was there, and will be assisting and interpreting again this year. You can find the official registration page at the link below. Please note: it is not required to attend NATC in order to attend STI.

North American Taiko Conference Taiko Jam performance of Edo Kotobuki Jishi

North American Taiko Conference Taiko Jam performance of Edo Kotobuki Jishi

Suzuki sensei's shishimai performance in 2015 during Wakayama Shachu's appearance in Orlando.

Summer Taiko Institute
Edo Kotobuki Jishi with Kyosuke Suzuki sensei
August 14 - 16, 2017
San Diego, CA

Summer Taiko Institute: Edo Kotobuki Jishi official page

What will be covered?
The Edo Kotobuki Jishi of Wakayama Ryu (style) consists of one shishi dancer and three musicians: taiko, atarigane, and shinobue. This STI will cover all the movements of the shishi as well as taiko and atarigane parts. Participants of all levels are welcome to attend, although having a basic understanding of taiko will be helpful. Depending on time and interest, fue players may get some instruction if they have experience with the music. The bachi used by Wakayama Shachu are 32cm hinoki. The shinobue is size 6.5 Hosei. These can be purchased through Asano Taiko US here. The Kotobuki Jishi book and CDs are currently out of print, and they are completely different from the Edo Bayashi book and CD. Suzuki sensei is also teaching a 10-hour Edo Bayashi intensive during NATC, so the book and CD would be useful for that course. You can learn more details about these traditional art forms here:

Eien's blog post about Suzuki sensei


Kyosuke Suzuki sensei

Kyosuke Suzuki sensei

Who is Suzuki sensei?
Suzuki sensei continues to be one of the most important teachers in my musical training. I started studying with him in 2005 and am constantly inspired by his performance and instruction, most recently during my Edo Bayashi intensive in Tokyo last October. For anyone who is unfamiliar with Suzuki sensei's artistry and teaching ability, a quick chat with someone who has experienced his instruction will help illustrate why he has so many fans. You can read more details at these links below.

Kyosuke Suzuki sensei biography, photos, and videos

Linda Uyechi's article about Jun Daiko's intensive with Suzuki sensei

Questions?
Please contact me with any questions regarding this STI and I will update this page with the new information. Thank you.


Shishimai demonstration after the 2011 Summer Taiko Institute

Shishimai demonstration after the 2011 Summer Taiko Institute

Shishi gashira (shishi head)

Shishi gashira (shishi head)


Bonus video

Impromptu Edo Bayashi jam with Isaku and Joe at their studio in Los Angeles, March 2017

Impromptu Edo Bayashi jam with Isaku and Joe at their studio in Los Angeles, March 2017