Wariki: Japanese music, dance and culture from Japan

Wariki members performing with fue and shamisen

Bellevue College hosted a performance by Wariki, a group of professional Japanese musicians and dancers on Jan. 15 in the Carlson Theater. Wariki members gave lectures and demonstrations to the BC community, an event sponsored by the Asian Pacific Islanders Student Association and Katatou-kai, a Japanese language cultural exchange club.

The group made their way to the Bellevue area for their first time this month to participate in the second annual Bellevue World Taiko Festival, which was from Jan. 15 to 17. The festival’s webpage says, “The strength, elegance and sound of the taiko that resonates in our hearts serves as the core for this festival.”

Wariki believes that “music is the combination of human emotions with the melodies that flow in nature – such as the sound of wind, waves or raindrops, the footsteps or calls of animals, the flapping of a bird’s wings or the rustling of trees,” and that “dance is born from the expression of human feelings of prayer and hopefulness with motions found in nature, such as the changing of seasons or the movement of plants and animals,” according to their webpage.

The demonstrations Wariki offered were of Japanese dances, taiko (drums), fue (flute) and shamisen (a three-stringed Japanese instrument).

The members of Wariki include Akira Katogi, drummer, dancer and Dai-do-gei traditional Japanese street preformer, Shunsuke Kimura, Japanese flute and tsugaru-shamisen player, composer and music director, and Etsuro Ono, samisen player and composer.

Wariki members performing with fue and shamisen
Wariki members performing with fue and shamisen

Katogi, chairman of Wariki General Corporation, and Kimure established Wariki in 2001, and in 2005 welcomed the addition of Ono to the group. Together, they have performed with a greater emphasis on the art of narrative in a style they have come to call Oto-mai-katari, which integrates music, dance and storytelling.

Wariki has traveled the world, performing in Serbia, Vietnam and Brazil. They’ve also performed in the U.S. previously, in Los Angeles and New York.
The philosophy behind Wariki is to “compose dynamic relevant renditions of traditional music and stage productions.”

They note that each performer has unique instincts within space and time, and they believe that “it is in capturing this diversity that the performance comes to life.”