Now Reports

Andrij Sonoda

Andrij Sonoda
Hometown: Londrina City, Brazil
In Japan: 7 years
Identity: Professional Wadaiko Drummer

In his teens, Andrij Sonoda was into wadaiko (Japanese drums) for a few years, but never imagined he would become a pro! But, that is what happened earlier this year – and he hasn’t looked back! It has had him travel throughout Japan and in South America already, and he is looking forward to next year which could include South American and European tours. His troupe is called Japan Marvelous, and he spent a year with them as a trainee, before they took him on as one of their five regular members. He is one of only a few foreign professional wadaiko players in the country, and is happy to be promoting the art to the world. Now, besides practicing three hours a day, he is the quasi international relations go-to – translating information into English and Portuguese and arranging overseas tours. He also teaches others at the associated school ‘Wadaiko Studio Ikkokan’ where he has started an international class which offers English guidance. Andrij loves that once he mastered the official techniques of the wadaiko – how to hold the sticks, stand and strike the drum, he has been able to incorporate his own style -as a musically passionate Brazilian, he has lots of that! His advice to anyone who wants to try wadaiko or Japanese arts is, “Japan gives us opportunities that we might not have at home. Obey the rules they give you and you can do it.” For information about the Japan Marvelous troupe and/or wadaiko lessons with Wadaiko Studio Ikkokan, you can contact Andrij direct on: 080-3814-2414.

Fukuoka Now reporter Nicole Okimura sat down with Andrij to talk about his journey from his homeland of Brazil, to the world of professional Japanese drumming in Fukuoka. Read the full interview below…

When and why Japan?
I moved to Shiga at 18 when my father got a job there. I worked in restaurants and factories for five years but when I lost my last job, I called the woman who was my wadaiko teacher in Brazil. She was back in Japan and living in her hometown, Fukuoka. She told me I could come down and study wadaiko again. So I moved to Fukuoka two years ago.

So, your parents are in Shiga and you are in Fukuoka?
After the Great East Japan Earthquake, my family, like many from the Brazilian community in Shiga, moved back to Brazil. But, my family and friends are very supportive of my decision to stay in Japan.

Before wadaiko, did you play any instruments?
Like most kids growing up in Brazil, I played drums. And, from Jr. High, I played the guitar. I loved playing music with my friends, but I never thought about doing it professionally.

What was the attraction of wadaiko?
It was very natural for me to start playing Japanese drums after playing other drums as a kid. The beats and rhythms are very different to Brazilian music – but I like the differences!

I would have thought wadaiko doesn’t have the ‘freedom’ Brazilian drumming has…
Yes, that is true. But, once you have mastered the techniques of wadaiko- the stance, distance from drum and how to hold the sticks, you can adjust it to your own style. I really like that our troupe leader embraces my Brazilian style.

What is the troupe you are in?
I’m a member of Japan Marvelous. It is a local wadaiko group, based in Iizuka City but have a dojo in Hakata too. It has been around since 1956. It became a pro troupe in 2009 so it is rather new on the pro scene. I hope Japan Marvelous becomes the best known wadaiko troupe! We currently have five pro members, five trainee members and about 200 students.

What is a typical day for you?
I live in the dojo with the leader of the troupe. Since becoming pro earlier this year, I spend three hours everyday teaching wadaiko- we even have lessons in English now, and about three hours a day practicing. Our troupe does performances at public events and schools so that is on top.

You are the only non-Japanese pro in the group. Have you experienced any difficulties as a foreigner?
No big problems at all. The only hard thing was understanding the sempai/kohai relationship. My group has embraced my roots and look at is as an advantage –they showcase my performances on stage!

What about tours; where have you been?
Just recently we drove to Aomori for a performance! We travel all over Japan for shows and we do international tours too. This year we have been to South America for a tour of Brazil and Paraguay. It was amazing having my family and friends come and watch us. The crowd’s response to our music is different to Japan. They clap and cheer a lot more than here and if they know one of our songs from watching youtube, they get so into it! I hadn’t been back to Brazil in six years and I never imagined I would be going back as a musician so that was great. Next year we are planning another South American tour and hopefully, a European Tour.

What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t playing wadaiko?
I still play guitar and I like to compose instrumentals. I spend all my time with music! If I go out, I usually go to Daimyo 101. It’s a Spanish bar in Tenjin.

What advice do you have for other foreigners aspiring to join a traditional Japanese art or sport?
I think Japan lets foreigners do what we want to do. We can survive as a pro here doing something we couldn’t do at home. If you obey the rules they give you, you can do it!

Originally published in Fukuoka Now Magazine (fn166, Oct. 2012)
For information about the Japan Marvelous troupe and/or wadaiko lessons with Wadaiko Studio Ikkokan, you can contact Andrij direct on: 080-3814-2414. Wadaiko Studio Ikkokan offer two drumming classes, one in English and one in Japanese! You can make Japanese friends, practice your Japanese language skills and learn about local culture whilst learning the ancient art of wadaiko drumming.

Fukuoka Prefecture
Published: Sep 26, 2012 / Last Updated: Jun 13, 2017

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