Citizen of both worlds but a stranger in both _ poet and writer Yuri Kageyama, who grew up in the U.S. and Japan, has always felt that way about those two cultures shaping her identity. That is why the pain of marginality and the outrage against discrimination have been central themes in her writing, which spans more than three decades.
The experience of being called “Jap” in America and the experience of being told to serve tea in Japan tap into the same important source of creative power for her works.
Kageyama was born in Japan, but was 6 when she moved with her family for the first time to the U.S. Her father was a rocket engineer and did research at the University of Maryland and later at NASA in Alabama. And so it was natural she would choose the English language to express herself. She loves ukiyoe as much as Andy Warhol, and pecan pie as much as sushi. Kenji Miyazawa is as much her literary influence as is T.S. Eliot. Another distinguishing aspect about Kageyama’s approach is her collaborations with artists in other genres, such as dance and music. She has worked with a variety of jazz musicians, including Eric Kamau Gravatt and Russel Baba, and feels that crossing genres is as part of her vision as is crossing discriminatory cultural boundaries.
The legacy of exploring the art of “Asian America” is being passed down to a new generation in Kageyama’s son Isaku, a student at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Isaku, born in San Francisco and bilingual and bicultural like his mother, has studied “taiko,” or Japanese drumming, since he was 6 years old with Amanojaku, a professional taiko group led by Yoichi Watanabe, which specializes in the Tokyo-style of “kumi” or ensemble taiko.
Isaku is now trying to forge a new kind of “world music” through his studies at Berklee. He is eager to win global audiences for taiko _ to gain what he thinks is the form’s rightful and respected position in the world of music _ and perhaps cross musical boundaries of his own into jazz, pop and world categories with not only taiko but other forms of ethnic percussion.Isaku performed in a musical and poetry collaboration for a book party in San Francisco for Kageyama’s latest book, “The New and Selected Yuri: Writing From Peeling Till Now” (2011: Ishmael Reed Publishing Co.).
All the musicians who performed added to Kageyama’s multicultural vision, sound and poetics _ Gravatt, Makoto Horiuchi, Ashwut Rodriguez, Hiroyuki Shido and Glen Pearson, not just Isaku. She is now working on “Story of Miu,” a theater piece about the plight of Asian women, abortion and the relationship between generations of women. The work-in-progress is being directed by Carla Blank, who has worked with Robert Wilson and also played violin at the book party. “Story of Miu” also features dancer Yuki Kawahisa and drummer Pheeroan akLaff. Tecla Esposito played keyboards in the reading debut of the work at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York in April 2012. Kageyama often collaborates with visual artists.
Japanese filmmaker Yoshiaki Tago has been documenting her pan-Pacific readings since 2008, including those in the Tokyo area with master percussionist Winchester Nii Tete from Ghana. By collaborating with people of different genres and cultures, Kageyama hopes to achieve that perfect moment, when through poetics and music, people can come together. This is what the great poet, novelist and playwright Reed wrote in the “Introduction” to “The New and Selected Yuri:
Writing From Peeling Till Now:”
“They’ve called Yuri “cute” often during her life. She’s cute all right. Like a tornado is cute. Like a hurricane is cute. This Yuricane. I found that out when she was a student at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1970s. One of her poems about iconic white women became an underground hit on campus. In 2009 the audience at New York City’s Bowery Poetry Club was also blown away by her poem, “Little YELLOW Slut,” a devastating look at the way Asian women are depicted in the media.
‘The New and Selected Yuri’ includes poems like this; the manner by which Japanese women are imprisoned behind a ‘Noh mask,’ but Kageyama doesn't leave it at that. Unlike many American Gender First feminists,she is capable of understanding how men are also victims of outmoded customs, though they are not dismissed merely as “reproductive machines,” as one minister was caught saying in an unguarded moment. Women should be “quiet” and have bok choy ready when the men come home from drinking with the boys.
It’s also the women, who bear the miscarriages, the abortions, the rapes, the beatings from a father, who, years later, can’t give an explanation for why he did it. In the United States, the white men who own the media and Hollywood blame the brutality against women on the poor and minority men. White middle class women, and their selected minority women, who want to remain on their payrolls in business, politics and academia, have become surrogates in this effort.
Courageously, Yuri Kageyama debunks this myth and correctly calls out men of all backgrounds and classes as women abusers. The father who inflicts gratuitous punishment upon his daughter is a NASA scientist.
These poems are honest. Blunt. When she says that writing a poem is like taking “a bungee jump,” she means it. Very few of the world poets have Yuri Kageyama’s range. Her poems critique Japanese as well as American society. The Chikan. The arrogance of the gaijin, who, even when guests in a country, insist that everybody be like them. Some are erotic. You might find allusions to Richard Wright, Michelangelo, John Coltrane. Music is not only entertainment but like something that one injects, something that invades the nervous system.
I asked writer Haki Madhubuti, what he meant by African Centrism. He said that it was based upon selecting the best of African traditions. Some of Yuri Kageyama’s poems might be considered Nippon Centric. She wants to jettison those customs that oppress both men and women, especially the women, and keep those of value. The Kakijun, The Enryo and The Iki.”
Kageyama has named the band she reads with The Yuricane in homage of Reed’s words. Among other artists in Japan and the U.S. that Kageyama has read with: Shuntaro Tanikawa, Geraldine Kudaka, Victor Hernandez Cruz, Seamus Heaney, Sachiko Yoshihara, the Broun Fellinis and Lorna Dee Cervantes. Kageyama’s poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in many literary anthologies and magazines, including “Y’Bird,” “Greenfield Review,” “San Francisco Stories,” “On a Bed of Rice,” “Breaking Silence: an Anthology of Asian American Poets,” “POW WOW: Charting the Fault Lines in the American Experience _ Short Fiction from Then to Now,” “phati’tude,” “Other Side River,” “Beyond Rice,” “Bridge, ” “Yellow Silk,” “Stories We Hold Secret,” “KONCH,” “Pirene’s Fountain,” “MultiAmerica” and “Obras.”
She has translated Kenzaburo Oe and Hiromi Ito, as well as the words of Suzushi Hanayagi for Robert Wilson’s performance piece “KOOL _ Dancing in My Mind.” Kageyama’s poetry, translated into Japanese, is featured in a 1985 anthology of Japanese-American and Japanese-Canadian poetry published by Doyo Bijutsusha. She has a 1993 book in Japanese co-written with Hamao Yokota on the Japanese workplace.
She is a magna cum laude graduate of Cornell University and holds an M.A. in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley.
She lives in Tokyo, where she also works as a journalist. To visit Yuri Kageyama's website CLICK HERE
Isaku Kageyama, born on December 12, 1981 in San Francisco, California, is a taiko drummer in Boston, MA. who has brought the traditional Japanese instrument to the cutting-edge modern art scene across the globe. His distinct sound, strongly rooted in classical Japanese music, adds elements from a wide variety of music genres such as rock, jazz, electronic, Latin, and African, to produce a powerful groove that goes far beyond traditional taiko.
Isaku Kageyama is a pioneering taiko drummer who has brought the traditional Japanese instrument to the cutting-edge modern art scene across the globe. His distinct sound, strongly rooted in classical Japanese music, adds elements from a wide variety of music genres such as rock, jazz, electronic, Latin, and African, to produce a powerful groove that goes far beyond traditional taiko.
Isaku has collaborated with jazz greats Terumasa Hino, Toshinori Kondo, and Kazutoki Umezu, as well as a wide range of ethnic musicians such as NATA (digeridoo), and Winchester Nii Tete (African percussion), He has worked on projects with fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto, and anime legend Takashi Yanase.
He is also a two-time National Odaiko (large drum) Champion, becoming the youngest person to win highest honors at the Mr. Fuji Odaiko Contest in 2000, and Hokkaido in 2003. Isaku has appeared in television commercials and events for brands such as Toyota, Boeing, Japan Postal Service, Aioi Sonpo and Shin Nihon Tatemono.
A powerful musician and icon of traditional Japanese culture, Isaku is one of the primary taiko drummers who will carry the art into the 21st century.
He has a popular online taiko course on Loopto with students from around the world
To Visit Isaku Kageyama's website CLICK HERE
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