GenRyu Arts to Perform ‘The Art of Peace’

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SAN FRANCISCO — GenRyu Arts, Nihonmachi Little Friends, API Cultural Center, and Asian Improv aRts present “The Art of Peace” on Sunday, May 19, at 1 p.m. (panel discussion at 12 p.m.) at the Tateuchi Auditorium, 1830 Sutter St. (near Buchanan) in San Francisco Japantown.

“The Art of Peace” integrates taiko performance, Japanese classical dance, shamisen music from ozashiki and nagauta traditions, minyo and video projection. It explores the development of Issei leader  Yonako Abiko (1880-1944) from being steeped in the warrior culture (her father was a samurai) to being a peace activist. One of Abiko’s contemporaries in Japan, Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), the founder of aikido, stated, “To smash, injure, or destroy is the worst thing a human being can do. The real way of a warrior is to prevent such slaughter — it is the art of peace, the power of love.”

In the 1920s, Abiko was one of the founders of the Japanese YWCA, located at 1830 Sutter St., now the home of Nihonmachi Little Friends.

The performance will feature Melody Takata, artistic director; Tatsu Aoki on shamisen and taiko; video direction by Chizuru Hamada; Kineya Ryu nagauta shamisen, iaido and shodo by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu; taiko and odori by GenRyu Arts and Gen Ensemble.

Admission is free. Presented with support from Alliance for California Traditional Arts, Organizational Project Grants of Cultural Equity Grants, and Zellerbach Family Foundation. For more information, visit http://genryuarts.org. Part of the API Cultural Center's 16th annual United States of Asian America Festival (www.apiculturalcenter.org/).

About the Artists

• Melody Takata is the founder and artistic director of Gen Taiko and has been performing for over 25 years. She grew up in the Japanese American community of Los Angeles with a rich experience in traditional arts and completed the ACTA (Alliance for California Traditional Arts) master apprentice program for 2002-03 on shamisen with Hideko Nakajima Sensei. In celebration of Gen Taiko’s 10th anniversary, Takata re-established study with 90-year-old Madame Fujima Kansuma in Los Angeles and completed the ACTA master apprentice program with her. She has also served as an artist-in-residence with Chicago’s Tsukasa Taiko, the Midwest’s premier professional taiko ensemble.

• Tatsu Aoki is the artistic director and founder of Tsukasa Taiko and is one of the most recorded, talked-about bassists on the Chicago music scene. A prolific and accomplished musician, composer and educator, he works in a wide array of musical styles, ranging from traditional Asian music to jazz to experimental music, and is a much in-demand artist performing on both contrabass and the shamisen. He has recorded over 100 albums featuring many of the musical legends of Chicago, including Fred Anderson, Von Freeman, Malachi Favors Maghostut. Don Move and John Watson Sr. In 2006, Aoki presented his most ambitious work to date, “re:Rooted,” featuring the MIYUMI Project Big Band at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion. Aoki is the founder and artistic director of the annual Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival and is executive director of Asian Improv aRts Midwest.

• Chizuru Kineya is a nagauta shamisen artist and an accredited master of the instrument form the legendary Kineya shamisen family, starting her studies at the age of six. She performs in the mainstream Japanese music and performing arts scene, in addition to making regular appearances at the National Theater of Japan. She conducts workshops for regional schools and popular media to educate the general public about the nearly 400-year history of shamisen tradition, and has collaborated with numerous contemporary classical musicians. The 11th annual Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival marked her U.S. debut and first collaboration with artists of the Chicago blues tradition.

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