When asked, "What kind of music is uniquely Japanese?" many Japanese will say, "Wadaiko!" The ancient form of drumming is exciting not only to hear, but also to watch. Each small movement is precisely choreographed. I took a few wadaiko lessons with my son Ian and was shocked at how much of a physical workout playing these drums could be.
The combination of wadaiko and spirituals is a unique happening. The following is a description of the event by Paul Nethercott, director of the Christian Artists Network in Japan.
“CAN the Gospel Be Uniquely Japanese?” is a bad question. The Good News cannot be “owned” by any one culture. However, the gospel can be expressed in culturally appropriate ways. That was the goal of the music video we made of Taiko (traditional Japanese drums) and Japanese “Black Gospel” music (in Japan, gospel music is commonly referred to as “Black Gospel”).
The Genesis of the idea for this video was a conversation I had many years ago with my good friend Yoshi Ehara. We discussed the question, “How we could we express the gospel Japanese style?” Yoshi suggested that Taiko might be a good way.
Taiko drumming has been a traditional form of Japanese music for hundreds of years, and it is deeply personal to the Japanese expression of identity. The surprising roots of “Black Gospel” in Japan date back to the 1950s when Mahalia Jackson performed here. Since then various performers and musicals have kept the “Black Gospel” tradition alive in mainstream Japanese society. In 1992 “Black Gospel” became a pop-cultural explosion in Japan. It was driven by the popularity of the film Sister Act starring Whoopi Goldberg. All of a sudden huge numbers of people wanted to listen to “Black Gospel.” Many also wanted to sing it. Since then hundreds of “Black Gospel” choirs have been established all over Japan and it continues to be a part of the current music scene in Japan.
The live concert was amazing. It brought me to tears. And, the response from the Japanese who were there was very positive. We heard comments like, “Wow, the gospel really does connect with me and my culture as a Japanese person.”