World Music Review Print

Girls' Day Celebration at UUFR

March 3, 2007 - Raleigh, NC:

As part of its Performing Artists Classical Series, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh hosted a group called Irodori playing music celebrating Hinamatsuri, traditional Japanese Girls’ Day, on classical Japanese instruments: the koto, shakuhachi, and takio, a Japanese style of drumming. The performance created a cozy yet reverent atmosphere, and served to encourage examination of gender relations, celebrate the traditional holiday, and educate and involve the audience.

Hinamatsuri is a traditional observance where red cloth-covered tiers of dolls depicting the imperial court are displayed and girls' songs sung. Yuri Yamamoto sang traditional songs that related to women in a soft yet vibrant soprano over accompaniment by traditional instruments. The songs included "Chatsumi" ("Tea-pickers"), "Tanko bushi" ("Coal Miner's Song"), "Hanayome ningyo" ("Bride Doll"), and "Akanboto" ("Red Dragonfly"). The audience was sometimes encouraged to sing or clap along with the music. "Akanboto" is a tenor/soprano duet in which a grown man remembers the red dragonfly on the back of his older sister's kimono when she married and moved to her new husband's household. Yamamoto sang soprano, and silver-haired taiko drummer Rocky Iwashima fit the part of the tenor well. During intermission, audience members could pay for a steaming bowl of opaque, grassy green tea and a pastel-colored sweet of nougat-like bean paste.

After a relaxed intermission, two selections designated as "Music of Men," an intense taiko duet and a shakuhachi improvisation from Clarence Dozar Ledbetter preceded a quietly compelling and confidently feminist mini-speech from Yuri Yamamoto. She spoke about her youthful rebellion against traditional Japanese gender roles and eventual realization that equality and cooperation between men and women should be paramount. Yamamoto played movements of Yoshinao Nakada's "Light and Shadow" suite that she felt expressed this ideological curve, and the bold, clear piano harmonies and expressiveness of her playing suggested a touching inner strength. The concert closed with a selection of songs designated "Music for Women and Men." Janet Ledbetter joined Clarence Dozan Ledbetter for three koto and shakuhachi pieces, and Yoko Iwashima and Rocky Iwashima performed a driving taiko duet for the finale.

Part recital, part tea ceremony and part cultural exchange, the participatory and educational nature of the performance created a jovial community atmosphere. Equally intriguing, the program explored traditional Japanese gender roles as well as Girls' Day traditions, and on a higher level supported acceptance, compassion, cooperation, and cultural evolution through its emphasis on openness and multiculturalism.