A crossover song for beginners: Yagura no Chochin

Crossing over (a multi-drum skill) is fun for players and impressive to audiences. Kristin’s most recent composition, Yagura no Chochin, helps beginning players of all ages learn this exciting skill using a limited number of repeated phrases. The first crossovers are slow, allowing players to practice the motion. Then, the patterns get into full swing, finally incorporating movement to other drums. The song is written out here. The video shows me demonstrating the Body and our recent community class playing through the full arrangement. (Shout out to Robin, Jennifer, and Sarah!)

A few notes: 1) solo length isn’t set; the solo is over when the soloist plays the Tag; 2) the number of times you rotate in the Big Rotation depends on the number of players; rotate until everyone is back at their original drum, then play Line 4 to end the section; 3) the speed in the first section (where I’m demonstrating the Body by myself) is the correct performance tempo; 4) these rhythms are particularly ripe for mnemonics. Our last class was fond of “right ov-er, left ov-er, move ov-er, “stay right here” as a memory aid in the Big Rotation. Use what works!

If you don’t know, the yagura is the elevated platform at the center at most bon odori. People on it lead the dances, and there may be a drummer on it. It’s usually decorated with chochin (paper lanterns) as seen in this photo from the Mountain View Temple Obon. The chochin sway with the movement of the dancers. The crossing over in this song is reminiscent of that swaying, and the rotation of the players alludes to the lead dancers on the yagura.

Let us know if you learn and perform Yagura no Chochin, and happy teaching!