Essay by Wakasanojo from the concert program
March 28 Concert by the Next Generation of Shinnai Professionals
The Serious Struggles of Traditional Japanese Performance
We traditional performers have been worried for a long time about the future of traditional Japanese music, because all of the genres lack successors. The extent of the crisis regarding succession differs slightly depending on the genre, but for all genres, the crisis of the future is almost the same. I suppose that, right now, in all fields, all performers are worried about the future of their genre.
Each school is trying to come up with measures to resolve this crisis. Because of their feeling that there is an impending crisis, some individuals and some groups are working actively on this problem.
As a result, I believe, the government has become aware of the problem of succession, and has recognized that the decline of traditional Japanese entertainment is a grave matter. Therefore, there had been a plan to increase the budget for culture in the fiscal year that started April 2011.
However, soon after that budget was decided, the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster on March 11, 2011, caused an unprecedented national crisis. Naturally, a huge amount of the government’s resources will be needed for the recovery and rebuilding of the devastated areas. In that case, it seems likely that the budget for culture will be the first to be cut. That is inevitable.
Even so, despite the restrictions on its budget, today’s performance is being sponsored by the Agency for Cultural Affairs.
The aim of today’s event is to support the Shinnai Association’s efforts to cultivate and train the next generation of shinnai performers. We at the Shinnai Association greatly appreciated the offer of support from the Agency for Cultural Affairs, and we made the training of the next generation of shinnai performers the central focus of this event.
Young people who are learning traditional arts from the previous generation of teachers and other performers, and who plan to pass them on to the next, always make an effort to master their art and improve their skills and to learn how to improve the traditional forms. They also attempt to adapt the traditional genres to entertainment suitable for modern tastes and to expand the shinnai fan base among young people. In addition to that, they are always working to improve their performance skills through continued training under the guidance of their teachers.
The Agency for Cultural Affairs has advised us that young performers should work together with experienced professionals so as to ensure the continuation of shinnai.
In today’s performance, young professionals will demonstrate how they have progressed as a result of their efforts.
It is impossible to improve and master the skills involved in traditional entertainment in a short period of time. People’s skills improve as the result of daily practice and their directing all their energy into their art.
Joruri performers train their voice and master a beautiful and charming tone; shamisen performers master their skill so that they can play any work. As these performers improve the skill of their voice and their hands, they begin to ascend to the level of profound art. In addition, as performers continue on their path toward a goal that is infinitely far away, they should enhance their human feelings and cultivate their sensibility.
Without skill, it is impossible to express the heart of a story, the feeling of a character or a scene, or the lyricism of a work. First of all, performers have to learn the skills needed for their art from an appreciation of tangible things and visible things, not just abstract ideas.
Our society tends to have a bad habit in which misunderstandings arise from theoretical disagreements.
Art is a struggle with oneself, not a competition with other people, so performers should not use their art as a way to make money. If a performer appears to be obsessed with self-advertisement or greed for success, the quality of that person’s art will deteriorate. We should face our art with a pure mind.
As the saying goes, the arts truly express our humanity. Not only young performers, but experienced ones should know this.
I wish that all performers would, through their art, walk on their own path of training, with the goal of improving their skill in their art.
In order to ensure the continuation of our art, all the members of the Shinnai Association, both new and established performers, should make an effort to work together to address the goal of improving their skill in our art.
I sincerely hope that you will love shinnai forever.
Chairman, Shinnai Association