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ART THE ART OF DRUM M I N G :

KUNIKO KATO WORDS BY EMI KARIYA PHOTOS BY EISHIN YOSHIDA COURTESY OF JAPAN SOCIETY NEW YORK

I may never meet a percussionist who understands rhythm as much as Kuniko Kato does. Praised by Steve Reich as a “first-rate percussionist,” I was grateful to see her perform at the Japan Society in early May. The performance was a collaboration with the composer Iannis Xenakis, the Italian choreographer Luca Veggetti, the dancer Megumi Nakamura and Kuniko Kato on an intricate set up of percussion which included a marimba and gongs. She performed the Pleiadis piece, which included her performing live along with five separate video projections of herself playing. It was simply mesmerizing and beautiful. I tapped into her senses to try and understand a little bit of what seems like an extraordinary body movement in her percussion practice and performance. 14

TO M TO M M A G A Z I N E

TOM TOM M AGA ZINE: H OW DID YOU GET INTO STU DYING M U S IC A ND WH AT PA RTIC U LA R LY A P P EA LED TO YOU A BOU T M A R IM BA? Kuniko Kato: I started with piano lessons because my sister was playing it. But my hands were small and as I got older I wasn’t able to play more complicated music, such as Beethoven and Debussy, in the way I wanted to play it. When I started to study with Ms. Keiko Abe, a legendary marimba player, I discovered myself feeling more comfortable about expressing music in rhythm. I didn’t care for going to school for music then, I simply wanted to continue playing music. But Ms. Abe recommended that I study at Toho Gakuen, and I enjoyed it.

I H AV E R EA D IN YOU R P R OFILE TH AT YOU R STYLE OF P ER FOR M A NC E IS HIGHLY AC C LA IM ED AS M U S IC C R EATED WITH EXC ELLENT P H YS ICA L A BILITY. C O ULD YOU EXP LA IN TH AT IN YOU R OWN WOR DS? As you focus on making the best hit for each sound, it only comes out naturally with the appropriate body movement. I realize this more and more as I grow older and become more experienced. I understand the importance of practicing yoga and its breathing and form. Expressing rhythm in dancing begins with body movement to the existing music but with percussion, I focus on how to control each hit to make it the best sound I want to express, and that naturally brings in the body movement.

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