This piece was originally written for upbeatrhythms.com, but I decided to include it on my regular blog site as well (and Google duplicate penalties be damned lol), as I love the piece and wanted to share it in more than one space. Hope you enjoy!
Sakura season is almost upon us once again here in Japan, so I thought I’d write a little about it and what it means to me. I was reminded that the season was nearly here by our own trees, which have come alive once again after a long winter and are just beginning to show their spring buds. A subtle difference to be sure, and yet the trees just seem so much more alive now than just a couple of days ago. Such is life.
Last year after the disaster, the Sakura season was very poignant and even more special than usual as it gave us all a sense of renewal and hope amidst all the heartache and terror that was going on around the country. I took an inordinate amount of pictures, I don’t think I’ll go quite as crazy with it this year but I’m sure I’ll do quite a bit of photography once again.
Before I ever encountered Japanese Sakura season, I had the pleasure of performing this piece by Keiko Abe on Marimba entitled “Dream of the Cherry Blossoms”, based on the Japanese folk some Sakura, Sakura, a haunting and beautiful melody and Abe did an amazing job composing some stunning variations on that fairly simple folk melody. One of these days I’d love to revisit the piece, though it was quite challenging even back in my heavy-duty marimba playing days, lots of complex polyrhythms and other technical challenges that you need to master in order to pull the beauty out of the tune and make sure it doesn’t sound forced or mechanical.
In any case, whenever sakura season comes around I think of this tune. I love hearing folk melodies on marimba because the natural wood sounds really bring out the earthiness and beauty of cultural music in a way I don’t think any other instruments can quite match. I guess natural sounding is the best way to put it, whether it’s Asian music or African or Latin American, the instrument fits like a glove.