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Okuni 「阿国」live in Montreal, May 2019

Created by Japanese musician and dancer Kayo Yasuhara, based in Montreal, 'OKUNI' is a stage theatrical production that tells the story of the life of Izumo no Okuni - famous female originator of Kabuki theatre. While inspired by the historical fiction written by Sawako Ariyoshi (1974), Okuni diverges from the text to tell its own interpretation of the life of Izumo no Okuni through music and dance. The production traverses the life of this artistic shrine dancer as she falls in love with a man from the Noh theatre, is betrayed by him for another and rises from the depths of rage and betrayal to find her voice. Posing as a man in her new dance she thereby begins the long-standing tradition of Kabuki dance in which dancers (now exclusively men) portray their opposite sexes.

Narrated and choreographed by Kayo Yasuhara and musical accompaniment provided with the assistance of several musicians Okuni was premiered in Montreal in 2016.

Even during the early phases of the premier production, I had been in contact with Kayo to discuss participating in her production, but the timing of my stay in Japan prevented me from being able to help her. In 2017 on my return from Japan, Kayo and I once again began discussions to relaunch Okuni with an entirely new musical score, which she generously entrusted to me to compose and produce.

The task was not a small one. Okuni, tells the story of the development of one of Japan's most treasured and iconic art forms: Kabuki. The music used in Kabuki is a wild mix of influences, including Gidayu from the puppet Bunraku theatre which predates it, instrumentals and theatrical themes from Noh opera and in of course its own unique array of styles including Naga-uta (long songs of Kabuki theatre). For an artist who grew up listening and loving this music, it was a chance to explore it in a whole new way. However, my primary training has been in ensemble taiko performance, shinobue and shakuhachi flutes - not shamisen or buyo dancing which feature heavily in Kabuki theatre.

The narrative opens in an age before Kabuki exists and at one point relates the mythical tale of the Sun Goddess’ emergence from a cave, known as ‘Ama no Iwato’. This required an exploration of Gagaku and Noh music. All of which I thoroughly enjoyed. I feel as though this project has altered and expanded my approach to Japanese music.

All in all, Kayo and I had spent months dialoging and arranging ideas to come up with what is soon to be finalized as the new score for Okuni. Lacking in the years of training needed to be truly proficient in many of the art forms I composed for, I can only hope that the music inspires audiences and draws their interest into the world of Kabuki. If I achieve this, then I can bare the critics who will certainly pick it apart as 'un-authentic'. Nevertheless, as original music, I can only hope that I've done justice to the iconic traditions I've borrowed and helped to draw interest in them. And, if my music stands alone to be enjoyed by audiences for its own merits, then I am doubly fortunate.

Okuni was re-performed with its new score in May of 2019 in Montreal. I joined Kayo and her production cast and crew for this debut performance with new score at the Maison de Culture Ahuntistic. After so many months of preparation, two intense weeks of rehearsal, it was finally over and it was fascinating to see the production evolve. From there, we hope that the material will have the opportunity to performed for a wider audience.

I would like to thank Kayo Yasuhara for involving me at such an intimate level in this exciting project and I’m looking forward to seeing Okuni in many more productions!


出演、ナレーション、振り付けは、安原さん、そして4名のミュージシャンと共に、2016年にモントリオール市にあるStudio 303にて上演された。








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