Wow, it’s amazing how quickly time passes. In measurements, I think it is most common for us humans to notice the passage of time in landmarks and moments of distinct change. For example, I am always utterly floored by the rapid development, growth and maturity of my nieces who by my own internal clock should still be babies curled up into sleeping packets of talcum and fuzz, but today run faster than their uncle and probably have a better vocabulary too.
One measure of such landmarks in my own career as a musician has been to watch the development of artists that I met in the early stages of my career. Meeting with them year over year and observing their individual evolution and the development of their careers. In so many cases, we have grown in a very similar way and we can talk endlessly about the trials and tribulations we have overcome almost as if we had not been separated by thousands of kilometers of planet the whole time. One such person in my own experience has been Tetsuya Kudaka. Today a ranked world champion O-daiko drummer, highly talented dancer and taiko performer, he and I both embarked on somewhat similar paths of independence around the same time and we are similar in age.
When I first met Tetsuya, he picked me up in his van and was more or less assigned to be my counterpart on behalf of the Meikyokan – the taiko manufacturer and studio that I was visiting to purchase drums. From that short and limited meeting, in which we both affirmed the highly similar natures of our careers, was born several years of mutual collaboration and exchange, almost always involving me traveling to Japan to perform alongside him in some form or another, whether it be in a local festival or for a concert.
At long last, my chance to repay his many kindnesses and hospitality materialized, when by some sort of divine twist of fate, Tetsuya was invited by a certain major Canadian production to participate in the 2019+ remake of a 25-year-old production. At first, uncertain as to whether the invitation was a hoax, Tetsuya reached out to me to ask for help in negotiating and investigating this inquiry, and sure enough within no time it became clear that after long last one of my long-time wishes was – at least in one form – coming true: to bring Tetsuya to Canada. Though, naturally my desire is to have him perform with me on a Canadian stage, for now I would have to settle for just having the chance to be of some assistance to him in at least a fraction of the manner in which he was able to help me in Japan so many times before. And since it seems as though he is going to be coming to Canada many times over the next while – my hopes are materializing grandly.
This time around, let me simply say, Tetsuya’s first visit to Canada, though not without misadventure and to some limited degree disaster, was a success and I was proud to say that he seemed quite excited and comfortable in Canada. I left him with one branded, unashamedly vulgar Canadian meme: every time we passed a Tim Hortons, I reminded him: “働くカナダ人はティミホーズ” (Working Canadians drink Tim Hortons)… though I know many Canadians who would spit if I said that, you can’t deny it’s one of those unmistakably Canadian parts of the local landscape and why not let it be a way to remember Canada?
Anyway, with much joy and gratitude to whatever kharmic fortune brought my friend to Canada to visit and perform here – I reflect on his short time here in September of 2018 and realize that five or six years ago when he and I first met, I was a boiler salesman, tired and uncertain about my future in music. I ponder the miraculous yet tumultuous times that have somehow amounted to many years since then and wonder how it is that it came to be that through some kind twist of fate we managed to find ourselves both tourists in Quebec City, both equally disadvantaged by our limited understanding of French (for me less of an excuse). I think there is little doubt that we are both guided by a strong sense that we have still much work to do together and many possibilities yet to unveil.
While I look very much forward to those discoveries and the years ahead – for now there is much work to be done at home and in a flash, it will be January and Tetsuya is scheduled to be back to Canada to rehearse again. I mustn’t wrap this up without acknowledging Tetsuya for taking great confidence in me and having me to Japan to perform with him many times now over the years. While in many ways we only seemed to have scratched the surface of what is possible for us to do – much of this is due to the geography – we now will encounter one another in at a much greater frequency and I can only imagine based on past experience that this will mean two things: one, a great deal of new and creative output will become possible; and two, that a string of catastrophic happenings will befall us. It seems that when he and I put our heads together, artistically great things happen, but for some reason keys are lost, traffic violations occur, 30cm poisonous centipedes suddenly appear on the driver’s arms while driving at 100km in dark tunnels… and all manner of generally inconvenient chaos tends to break loose. All part of the balance of otherwise good karma I suppose.
I look forward to every moment of it.