Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Chimes used in Rain Falls...

Chimes used in Rain Falls...

Rain Falls... is The TenGooz latest release and will surprise many of our long time fans in many ways. The song is built around Hase G`s haunting bass phrases and the melody line for the A pattern came to me on my first hearing. The chorus melody evolved after many practice sessions. I first imagined the lyrics to be about the suffering of the water birds caught in the nets put up by the lotus root farmers around lake Kasumigauara, Tsuchiura City, and had a working title Puppets on a String.
The songs lyrics were changed (forever maybe) as we got involved with the Ki No Ballad project which was a multi-media production based on a concept by artist Elizabeth Robless.

Since Tsukuba`s great songstress Jenny would be singing in the show and needed appropiate material, we decided to adapt the lyrics to fit the shows themes.
The present poem came to me at one shot, though some changes were being made, while first teaching the melody to Jenny at Elizbeths studio late one night.

On the recording, of course we have Jenny. Another point of departure for the TenGooz was the input of artist musician Thomas Mayer who put down all of the guitars and helped with the other effects.

Many listeners have commented on the densness of the arrangement (some finding it too busy).
One of the additions to the sound was a set of chimes from my collection of ethnic instruments. We also used them on stage for the live versions. Here is a picture of them as they hang outside my window.

Give the song a listen and tell us what you think.

Avi Landau

Thursday, April 24, 2008

TenGooz scattered for spring!

In the middle of very fruitful recording sessions the TenGooz have temporarily dispersed as Michael is in Okinawa for research and Avi(me) is in New York for 10 days.

Here in The Big Apple spring is in full swing and flowers and blossoms are exploding with color everywhere. I've been exploring little known parts of The City, especially the outer burroughs (New york City has 5 burroughs: Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx and Staten Island). Bird-watching in Jamaica Bay, Queens, cherry blossom viewing with the various hassidic sects at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, and relaxing on the spectacular estate at wave hill in the Bronx, overlooking the Hudson River Valley.

We should be back together next week doing some recording.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Rin used in SMILE

Watching You Smile

Two questions I'm often asked about our recent song watching You smile are: Avi, are you satisfied with the vocals?
and:What is that ringing sound that can be heard throughout the song?

Well,let me answer both questions.
First,no.The vocals will be redone and we will probably also do a version with Jenny singing.
next, the instrument used in the song is a rin, a Buddhist bell found at temples and at peoples home altars.
While thinking about the song and its theme of sudden pure inspiration, I had the idea of using such a sound.
I went into the first buddhist altar shop I found and tried out the sonorities of each one they had.
The one i finally selected was the most unusual in shape, and the most expensive!I knew that it was just right for the song, so i just took out the money and smiled!
We also used it to good effect at the ballad in Wood Show to which we created the music.

Avi Landau

Friday, April 11, 2008

Old,peeling E-Ma painting of Kishibojin

Hand-drawn Jizo signs

Kishibojin Shrine

Thomas shows Avi the Kishibojin Shrine

It is sometimes annoying when The Japanese insist on their uniqueness, but you have got to admit that in many ways their is no culture like theirs.
In what other country can you see such excitement built up by the media about the northward progress of cherry blossoms,or in other words, the cherry blossom front. Where else can you find such such enthusiasm and intention in the process of blossom viewing?
Leaving the throng of revellers at the famous local viewing point, Hojo oike, behind,thomas said that he wanted to show me a special place that he had been led to a few years ago by a girl whom he had met by chance on the road and offered to show him a'very beautiful place.
Just a little ways up a narrow and winding mountain road past an old graveyard demarcated by creepy, hand-drawn jizo candleboards, we came to the spot, so perfect on that day, bursting in full-bloom.
The shrine itself was also of great interest, being dedicated to Kishibojin, a goddess who aids in fertility, easy delivery and marital harmony. She also has a very interesting story. The loving mother of a thousand children, she feeds them all off the flesh of other people children whom she kills.
When Sakyamuni, the Buddha, hears of this woman, he decides that he must teach her a lesson, and promptly abducts one of her kids. She becomes frantic and begins a desperate search for her child. After deciding that his point had been made, the Buddha returns her son safely and after sermonizing her realizes that she has come to understand the suffering she has inflicted on other mothers. She has been taught to care about the feelings of others. She is usually depicted holding a pomegranite(zakuro), which is a symbol of fertility because of its abundant seeds.

full bloom

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thomas and Avi Enkatain at Cherry Blossom Festival !

Tsukuba has burst into color, mainly in shades of pink, as the cherry blossom front has swept upon us right on schedule. I had been asked a few weeks earlier if The TenGooz could play at a Festival held at the Hojo Oike, a small pond surrounded by sakura trees.
I could only answer with a `we`ll see', as our appearance seemed to be contingent on our performing an enka song(a genre of sentimental Japanese songs popular with older folks), and I knew that Hase G would be strongly against it. I was right about that,of course, and when I tried to subtly suggest the idea to our bassist, he responded with a firm and emotional-NO WAY!

Thomas lives very near the pond, in an area accessed by ancient roads which have hardly changed since the feudal period. We decided that we would go ahead,just the two of us, and perform the requested song as voice accompanied by acoustic guitar.
We got together on Thursday night(the event was on Saturday) and played through the song a few times, repeatedly listening to the cassette I had been given.

The day of the festival was glorious,in terms of metereorological conditions and it felt great to be alive.

Most of the audeince at the festival were extra grateful for being present on that perfect day, as they were mostly in their 80`s and 90`s. It was quite possible that there was a centenarian or 2 , as well. They certainly seemed glad to be there for another cherry blossom viewing.

The green room (the room in which performers wait before going on-stage)experience at the festival, was also quite unique. We shared it with a troupe of Japanese dancers, singers and toad- oil salesmen.

Thomas and I ended up doing 3 songs and making a quick break for it, in order to avoid the throngs of rabid , autograph seeking seniors. Then, our great day had just be continued

Avi Landau

Sunday, April 06, 2008




To Eat The Leaf Or Not To Eat The Leaf,That Is The Question

Eating sweets sounds like a simple pleasure.And though partaking of wagashi(和菓子),or traditional Japanese snacks ,is certainly enjoyable,it is a far from simple field.
As it is now the cherry blossom viewing season, I stopped by one of the wagashi counters at Seibu and asked for some sakura-mochi(桜餅), cherry rice cakes, which I had thought would be the apropriate sweet for slowly noshing on under the full-blooming trees.
I was surprised however, when the woman behind the counter told me that the season for sakura-mochi had already passed with the month of March.She explained that the wagashi called sakura-mochi was eaten from the Doll Festival on March 3rd (because of its being a pretty pink), up until the end of the month. I confirmed this later by going to all the wagashi shops I knew of in Tsukuba and was told the same story.Sorry,no sakura-mochi.

Sakura-mochi is a flattened piece of pounded rice,dyed pink, which is filled with sweet bean paste, rolled into a crepe, and then partially wrapped with a salted cherry leaf.It was invented by a wagashi shop(Yamamoto-Ya),still located along the banks of the Sumida River, in the early 19th century.They became the craze of old Edo, then spead throughout the country and have become a standard part of spring in Japan.

In the Kansai region(Kyoto,Osaka...)however,cofectioners had their own take on the idea and while still using the salted cherry leaf and sweet beat paste, they used a different type of dough(one in which the individual grains of rice remained recognizable) and gave the cakes a different shape,something very close to a ball. It was also given a different named domyoji(道明寺).

It is domyoji,originally from Kansai, which have become the sweet to enjoy in April, especially during the cherry blossom season. and you might very well be served this tasty little morsel
this month by Japanese friends or colleagues.

If you are fortunate enough for that to occur, the next, inevitable question arises. Do you eat the leaf or not? Well...,the leaf is edible and in my opinion delicious.
However, its a matter of personal taste. In this area most people eat the leaf, though it seems that in Kyoto many people just savor the leafs aroma.

One more point to remember. Do not confuse sakura-mochi or domyoji with the Mays sweet kashiwa-mochi(柏餅). This is a similar sweet-bean filled rice cake wrapped with the leaf of a Japanese oak. It is associated with Childrens Day(May 5), because these leaves do not fall from the tree until the tree starts budding, which for the Japanese symbolizes a harmonious flow from one generation to the next.

When eating Kashiwa-mochi you should DEFINITELY NOT EAT THE LEAF, as it is not edible. There is a story I heard about the Show a Emperor upsertting his stomach by not following that rule(the Emperor it seems should not leave anything on his plate).

Its a beautiful season, so why not go to one of Tsukuba`s wagashi shops and enjoy its special flavors!!!

Avi Landau

Friday, April 04, 2008

Twice in a year chance

Changing of the Gods-Mt Tsukuba`s Onzawari Ceremony

At 877 meters it is not very high or majestic.But for those of us who live on the vast(by Japanese standards, of course!)plain to its south, the slightly crushed M figure of Mt Tsukuba is like a trusty old friend, always reassuring us of where we are and helping us get our bearings when we are lost. Its forested slopes put Japan`s seasons on display while on the flatlands below the greenery has been disappearing at a frightening pace and snow accumulation become almost a most rare occurence.
For the Japanese, Mt Tsukuba has also been a sacred mountain, since time immemorial. Its peaks are where the ancestral Gods of the Japan, Izanagi and Izanami, are enshrined.
The mountain has attracted many holy men over the years and during the Edo Period(1600-1867) a temple was built half-way up its southern slope to protect Edo castle from the unlucky North-Eastern quadrant, and this temple, then Chuzen-Ji, was generously endowed and supported by Japans long-ruling clan,The Tokugawa.
In 1868 Japan underwent revolutionary reforms and the Emperor was restored(again?) to supreme power(in name only, most say). The Meiji goverment also carried out a probably ill-advised(though not as ill advised as some other policies set in those days!) policy of separating Buddhism(a foreign import) from the pure , native belief which came to be called Shinto.
Thus Chuzen-Ji is now Mt Tsukuba Shrine, popular as a place to pray for marital happiness.
The priests of this shrine, together with the assistance of local residents continue to perform the most important of the mountains ancient rituals- Onzagawari(御座替り)which can also be pronounced Ozagawari. This ceremony takes place twice a year, on April and November 1.
The ceremony at first appears to be a typical Japanese Mountain God festival in which the deities are brought down to the fields in spring to bring abundant harvests, and are then escorted back up to their mountain abodes for the winter.
Mt Tsukuba`s spring and autumn rituals seem at first glance to be of this pattern, but there is a twist. Since the ancestral couple are enshrined on its peaks and the shrine half-way up the mountain is dedicated to family harmony, instead of focusing on agriculture the Onzagawari emphasizes love and protection of children.
Yesterday, despite vicious winds, a small omikoshi(portable shrine9 carried the child god up the mountain, where it is cool and high above the sweltering lowlands and the parent gods were carried down to the center of the mountain.
The positions of the parents and child will switch back again in autumn.
The ceremony began early in the morning and continued till late afternoon as carriers bore the omikoshis up and down the mountain(they used the cable car for some of the way!), battling the ferocious and unrelenting gusts.
Maybe the most special thing that a visitor can do on these ceremony days is to cross the sacred bridge(a red, wooden,covered bridge of rare design) which is only open on the first day of April and November.
I know that most of you missed it yesterday, but maybe I will see there in autumn.

Avi Landau