When I talk, play, improvise, compose and perform music with my friend Akinori Fujimoto, we visit a place that exists in a kind of shared psychic reality, a blend of memory and imagination so swirled together that it feels as real as the air I breathe. We travel together, at once creating and exploring its landscapes and towns, the skies and seas. We learn the traditions and rituals, we work the land, plant seeds, and build a home. We have agency in this world, but we are not gods there; there is always something bigger than us and we are in awe of it, we respect it and are grateful for it.
Our portal to get there, like Alice’s rabbit hole, the wardrobe that leads to Narnia, Dorothy’s tornado, or Sun Ra’s home planet, is our music - our instruments and our bodies in space: flute, taiko (Japanese drums), bells and voices. We can improvise without a plan, we know when to start and finish, we land on the same spontaneous paths, rhythms, airways and structures, because we are the air and the earth in the same place and time, which is everywhere, and every-when, all at once.
Akinori is from Osaka, Japan. I am from Hereford, England. We collided in London in 2003. If we drew a Venn diagram, the overlap between us would be the world of Zashiki Warashi, our lived experience and our personal / cultural heritages. Our Japanese-Celtic roots are important to us (language, tradition, philosophy) but we are not bound to them. We know we rise from the water, and before that from energy and light, vibration and resonance - sound. We are shining a light on our roots, deep deep down, while stretching ourselves towards the sun. This world we create and inhabit is a place of symbiosis in an ecstatic dance of work and play.
After twenty years of forming and exploring this place, I believe it has become more vivid to me now that we have begun to sing into it, using a playful hybrid language that derives from Japanese, Old English and imagined language.
Our most recent song composition is an example of this. The words Eor and Ear (tree and sea) come from old English, as do Són and Dreám (sound and dream). Sodate is Japanese, used when encouraging someone or something to grow. These words carry natural power, but we invest ourselves in them, imbuing them with our intention-magic which becomes doing-magic and music-magic. We are the earth dreaming, its heart and breath our taiko and flute.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this work we do together is this: neither one of us can fully go there alone. Maybe that is what our music is teaching us. Our differences merge to make a stronger force together that can transform time and space, for us and our audiences. When we open our eyes, back in the rehearsal room or on the stage, we are two friends in a room. An infinity pool comes to rest, the last ripples from our final notes settle. We pack our instruments into our bags and set off back to our lives, our children, our day jobs. Who is dreaming our story? Who is singing us into existence? Whoever you are, wherever you are, we strike our drum, we sound our flute, we sing back to you.