Learning from the virtuosity of skilled master performers
Tsuruga Wakasanojo, Chairman of the Shinnai Association
(From the printed program, September 29, 2013)
My favorite performing arts, besides Shinnai, are gidayu and rakugo.
Among the various types of shamisen music, gidayu is said to be the leader.
Gidayu music is truly wonderful, outstanding joururi. People have told me that when I was a child, I was always listening to gidayu. Even after I got somewhat older, I listened to gidayu while I was studying. I was particularly fascinated by the skill of the master Toyotake Yamashiro Shoujo, who was said to be the master of masters, and I earnestly listened to his performances.
Although shinnai is different in many respects from gidayu, in both genres, stories are narrated. In particular, the skill of expression of the master’s kotoba (spoken lines) can be so marvelous and elegant that the essence of the story is transmitted to the listeners’ hearts as if they were actually seeing it, or more than seeing it. It is simply a kind of miracle. The depth and breadth of a master’s art moves the listeners’ hearts and makes them tremble. Listening makes them sad, rather than happy.
Shinnai builds on the condition of the characters in the stories -young people and old, men and women, people of various ranks in society, with differing emotions, in all kinds of situations. The skill of the performance of the kotoba, not only of the music, overwhelms the audience and thrills them.
As a genre of joururi, shinnai works typically include more kotoba than musical lines.
It would be confusing to the audience if the male characters Sogoro, Inagawa, Minekichi, Yaji, and Kita all sounded the same. Of course, the lines spoken by female characters who are oiran, geisha, okamisan, and musume should sound different. Their age, emotions, place, and time are different. We must train our voice, understand and study the music in various ways, and practice day and night. The most essential part of training is to learn from the virtuosity of skilled master performers.
One starts by imitating a master, and then gradually builds up one’s own performance style and skill, always aiming for further improvement.
Performing is not a competition with others. We performers dedicate our entire life to understanding our own heart and training to perform.
From now on, please support and encourage the young professional performers who are making every effort, always aiming to be better performers tomorrow than they are today.