Ensembles Tokyo is a participatory music festival which anyone can take part in. Under the direction of musician Otomo Yoshihide, the aim is for participants to create their own new forum for playing music, transcending their respective viewpoints and styles. This event has been held since 2015, but it has been decided that this year’s event will be the last one.
Although this year’s event at Tokyo Tower was canceled in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ensembles Tokyo tradition of artists and participants playing and making music together went ahead in the form of an online workshop.
The online workshop attracted many participants from Japan and overseas who came together as one group together with the artists, regardless of location or circumstances. The resulting ensemble video will be streamed free of charge on Saturday, February 27, 2021.
Taking part in the event were Japan’s foremost noise band the globally active Hijokaidan, Saya from musical duo Tenniscoats whose work is unbound by the confines of art and music, up-and-coming musician/percussionist Manami Kakudo, perennial Ensembles Tokyo contributors Yasuhiro Yoshigaki with Orquesta Nudge! Nudge! and the event’s regular director Otomo Yoshihide.
Under the supervision of the Project FUKUSHIMA! Group, participating members of the public performed with a colorful cloth as a backdrop, creating one big furoshiki (traditional wrapping cloth) in the final video.
We will also make available free online videos and interview transcripts that feature a compilation of methods for playing music together using hand signs. These methods were developed over the course of the Ensembles Tokyo project, which comes to an end this year.
In 2015, Ensembles Tokyo kicked-off as a music festival where “anyone can take part” in the various programs that were created together by the participants. For its final edition that was planned in 2020, I wanted to end with a grand Bon Odori dance. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic did not allow this to happen. Not being able to gather was crippling for music in general but was especially hard-hitting for Ensembles Tokyo where the music was actually made by people coming together.
However, instead of feeling depressed by this situation, we began to explore different possibilities for online workshops while reflecting on what we have accomplished over the years. How did we make it accessible for everyone? What were the concepts, ideas, and mechanisms that were implemented in the process? We decided to direct our efforts in documenting and communicating these as much as possible.
My intention to make a festival where anyone could equally participate in regardless of their experiences in music or differences in age and gender was rooted in my experience of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Since then, I have been constantly confronted with the question, “What kind of future do I want to make?” I wanted to share this thought process with as many people as possible by making music together. It made me happy that so many people could have fun building the festival together.
Ensembles Tokyo will end, but celebration through music and festivals will continue on as long as humanity exists. I hope that what we experienced together, all the sounds we created and dances we danced, will contribute to the future that you will make.
Ensembles Tokyo Art Director
P.S. Over the past 10 years since the earthquake, I took on many jobs as a director for festivals. However, this will probably be my last time to do so. From here on, I look forward to seeing you again in a different role, as a musician.
Otomo Yoshihide, Manami Kakudo, Saya (Tenniscoats), Hijokaidan, Yasuhiro Yoshigaki with Orquesta Nudge! Nudge!
Ensembles Tokyo Executive Committee Office