Thursday, September 25, 2014


I've seen a lot of taiko songs where the performers walk to their drums and immediately start playing.  Sometimes it's on purpose, sometimes not.  What lacks in this case - whether or not you mind it - is kamae.

Kamae is roughly translated as "posture" or "ready".  Sometimes kamaete is used to tell people to "get ready" or "get into position."

I don't mean to say that people should always get into a set position before they play.  Well, sort of.

The idea of kamae to me isn't only about the physical.  Getting your body situated at the drum is just a part of it.  It's not even about getting into a specific stance, either.  You can be standing and still be in kamae.  There's a lot about the body being in a set position that helps the mind settle/focus just enough to get into a performance mode.  It's sort of like bowing to each other when practice begins - yes it's courtesy, but it signals that practice is beginning and the mindset should change to reflect that.

As an audience member, there can be a (not-so) subtle difference, as well.  Someone walking to the drum and totally in that performing mindset without a visible kamae can still *have* kamae. But when someone walks to the drum and either never quite settles, looks uncomfortable, or goes right into playing, that can be a missed opportunity.  It's that extra bit of showmanship, of performance, of letting the audience know that ooh, NOW it's starting.

You remember that first time you saw someone playing the odaiko in a way that made your jaw drop?  I bet they paused at the drum before they played it, right?  Maybe even took their time getting into a stance and/or time to bring their arms up in no particular hurry?   Now while it's not something you want for every song, it's an example of very deliberate kamae.

Ultimately, a group's style and your personal philosophy will dictate how important kamae is to you.  Still, it's good to think about if you're doing it or not, if others are or not, and what effect it has or doesn't.  That awareness, as always, only gives you more ways to improve your art!

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