By Seble Teweldebirhan
Addis Ababa, October 6, 2011 (Ezega.com) - The Embassy of Japan, together with the Japan Foundation, presented a unique drum and tap dance mix show at the National Theatre on Tuesday this week. The concert titled “Blendrums” was led by renowned Japanese drummer Leonard Eto and his group of drummers and tap dancers who are visiting Ethiopia as part of their East Africa tour.
H. E, Ambassador of Japan to Ethiopia Hirouyuki Kishino opened the concert with a remark saying the concert is part of an effort by the embassy and the Japan Foundation to strengthen the relationship between the people of Japan and Ethiopia. “Indeed, this is the second event of the Japanese Cultural performance for this fiscal year. We are very honored and excited to have this opportunity and I would like to thank them for visiting us here in Addis Ababa. Leonard Eto is one of the pioneers in introducing Japanese drums outside Japan, and he performed in over 35 countries to date,” the ambassador said.
“Tonight’s performance will be blend of Japanese drum music and modern tap dancing. This is why the dancers are also called, 'Dancing Percussionists'. I have no doubt that we are about to witness a unique, colorful and vibrant performance” he added.
The performance was indeed exceptionally beautiful. With drums somewhat similar to Ethiopian traditional drum (Kebero), drummer Leo and his tap dancers and backup drummers did a magic that thrilled the audience at the National Theater. The drum and tap-dance together, probably eccentric for the Ethiopian audience, created music with a strong but unfamiliar and spontaneous sound.
The National Theater dancers also joined the Japanese group with traditional dance. The drum and the tap dance with Ethiopian traditional Eskista, did make sense, although it was noticeable that there wasn’t enough harmony between the Japanese and Ethiopian dancers. The tap dancers tried to learn the traditional dance on the stage and made funny scenes, which was entertaining.
The audience loved the performances. “It was beautiful’ said Haile, one of the audience members. “I have enjoyed it a lot. It is incredibly organized and sounded like a music that has all kinds of instruments,” he added
The fact that the drums used by the Japanese are similar to Ethiopian traditional Kebero made some audiences wonder about Ethiopian traditional music that hardly shows creativity except for adopting the western style. “With a similar traditional instrument, Japan was able to make a contemporary and unique sound that can be identified only to theirs. This is probably likeable to the rest of the world. Because of this, Leo and his team have the opportunity to travel all over the world and introduce the culture of their country. Our musicians need to learn to be creative and make use of what we have as a resource to get attention from the outside world,” Alem, another person among the audience, suggested.
Sticking to the same sound, the Ethiopian traditional Kebero is where it has been for the last century, and is used mostly in traditional music’s and religious activities only. The concert on Tuesday night at National Theater could be wake up call for Ethiopian musicians on what they can do with the rich and beautiful traditional instruments we have.
Seble Teweldebirhan is Addis Ababa based Reporter for Ezega.com. She can be reached by sending email through this form.