THE YIN AND YANG OF SENRI KAWAGUCHI

She looks like a typical wholesome young lady in her cardigan, loose shirt, and sneakers, her hair in bangs at the front and ponytail in the back, and her frame slight, almost delicate. Were it not for the guests expecting her and the Yamaha executives by her side, she would be unobtrusive, invisible even, as she is soft-spoken and quiet, attributes magnified further perhaps by the face mask she adorns in light of the global coronavirus scare. She picks up a pair of drumsticks and tries to find a comfortable angle on the drum stool.

She hits the snare—a Yamaha Absolute Hybrid Maple—and extracts a loud fat snappy tone that rattles the room. She then plays the entire kit with a mid-tempo funk groove so taut you could practically hang a couple of shirts that would consequently flap with each rapid double kick accent. The Recording Custom kit is barely in tune, the tom angles yet to be adjusted but she immediately is in command of the instrument: her pulse is forceful.  For eight bars, she transformed into a monster, albeit still a delicate one, as she made the drums sound like thunder. She stops, points out a couple of immediate adjustments to be made. After basic tweaks are made and a few more groove-tests, she reverts back into being someone her age, lightly giggling and standing shyly, awkwardly even.

She gamely poses for pics with the Lyric staff; she removes her mask and smiles hugely like a typical Japanese kid—yes, she is kawaii– except she isn’t really that typical: who among Senri Kawaguchi’s peers made it to Drummerworld.com’s Top 500 Drummers list at age 14?

Yamaha in cooperation with Lyric brought the now 23-year old drum phenom for a Drum Clinic at Teatrino, Promenade, Greenhills on Feb 22, 2020. The drumming community was immediately abuzz mere hours after the initial announcement was made in early Feb, as were fans of Japanese pop culture. Of the former, veteran drummers such as The Dawn’s JB Leonor were drawn to her performance videos;  Leonor in fact says he “recently copped this fast sextuplet thing she does with the cymbals, double kick, and snare from her Drumeo channel!” The latter community discovered Senri when she did drum cover videos of songs from the anime series K-on when she was 14 (anime songs tend to be metallic high energy, fast tempo affairs). The Drum Clinic attendees informally represented both communities; career-wise, Senri has mostly leaned toward upbeat jazz and high energy fusion particularly in the virtuosic Senri Kawaguchi Triangle with keyboardist Philip Saisse and bassist Armand Sabal-Lecco.

As evidenced on most of her video-documented live performances, Senri is a technical tour-de-force. Live, her power is astounding, at once ferocious and fluid, delivering sextuplet rolls with ease. Her arms are toned, the musculature manifesting with nearly every stroke; power and grace in equal measure. Yup, you can see where the power is coming from despite her slight frame. She gleefully expressed that she felt extra powerful on Clinic day due to the enthusiastic crowd response and, humorously, her sinigang dinner (she loves it) and technique-wise, she holds her sticks near the base, presumably letting the momentum deliver the extra punch. For fast rolls, she demonstrated how she moves and adjusts her grip closer to the middle of the sticks. She does not consciously start with the mindset of playing fast; Senri says she practices paradiddles (and what she refers to as paraparadiddles and paraparaparadiddles) and distributing specific accents to each  drum of the kit. She demonstrated these slowly before going to performance speed.

Senri acknowledges that, like her heroes  Ian Paice (of Deep Purple her first proper drumming idol), mentor Kozo Suganuma, Dave Weckl, and Akira Jimbo, she is known as a note-y drummer. And then she was in front of Steve Gadd who played just one note.  She recalls saying “I’m so sorry!” immediately and kept her head bowed for a long time. The audience laughed with her at the humbling recollection.

From the Recording Custom kit (which by the way was amplified by a Yamaha EAD system), she moved to the electronic DTX452. Senri started playing drums after her dad, a mecha-otaku, bought a DTX set just to find out how it worked. She was given the set when she was 5; she says she treated it simply as a toy she could play with. Needless to say she ripped on the DTX452 with no problem, playing full-steam ahead along with pre-recorded material from the Milesexperience (‘What Goes Around’) and K-on (‘Go Go Maniac’).

What makes Senri an infectious drummer is the sheer joy she brings to the instrument. Beneath all the firepower and finesse, her relaxed concentration is wonderfully broken by the toothsome smiles that show whether she is approaching or coming from a difficult fusillade of notes. There is a Zen-calm at work, an awareness of the here-and-now beyond the kit. Near the beginning of the Clinic she was already firing on all cylinders; a wingnut flew from one of the cymbal stands and despite being in the middle of a complex run, she saw it, laughed and tried to call attention to the problem without, literally, missing a beat. Later, two pieces of confetti most likely left over from a previous event at Teatrino were liberated from the rafters thanks to the sheer volume of her playing; Senri saw one falling hopelessly and laughed. The only apparent moment of panic was in the middle of the clinic when she saw that one of the snare’s wires had snapped; unbeknownst to her, it broke halfway through the first song.

Maybe that’s the real secret to her drumming. For all her technical advancements, she still looks at the drums as her favourite toy, and the stage her playground. She’s playing in the truest sense of the word, and it’s a lesson worthy of any musician.

Click on the gallery for more of Senri and her Drum Clinic (photos are owned by Lyric Philippines; unauthorized use is prohibited).

words by Francis Brew Reyes

LYRIC WELCOMES XIAN LIM TO THE ENDORSERS ROSTER

Lyric welcomes Xian Lim to the Lyric Endorsers list. Lyric Legal Dept Head/Operations Manager Maisie Ann Cristobal-Agustin co-signed new contracts with Xian along with Lyric Artist Relations Officer Kurt Floresca and Lyric Online Marketing’s Francis Brew Reyes as witnesses at the Lyric Music Studios.

While known primarily as an actor and singer, Xian has also had classical piano training and can play the trombone, and 15 other musical instruments. A couple of years ago, he held a concert showcasing his skills as a multi-instrumentalist. Xian even bought a Bachendorff cello from Lyric because he wanted to learn it.

Xian intends to further amp up his musical side this year and reached out to Lyric for support. He will be using Harman home studio-related products (including the JBL Eon One Pro and AKG Lyra),  a Yamaha APX acoustic-electric guitar, and a Kawai baby grand piano. Xian is currently constructing his home studio where he plans to record special online performances.

Welcome to the Lyric family, Xian!

MEET THE JURORS FOR THE LYRIC/PTGPFI PIANO COMPETITION FOR YOUNG ARTISTS

The Piano Competition For Young Artists by the Piano Teachers Guild of the Philippines Foundation Inc and Lyric Piano Corp supported by Yamaha and Kawai is officially underway as three jurors screened video performances from 22 semi-finalists. The jurors intently listened to and meticulously watched each piano performance video in a marathon 5 hour-plus session at the Lyric Studios on Feb 18.

The semi-finalists were divided into three different age categories (Category A: 10 yo and below; Category B: 11-14; and Category C: 15-19) and showcased high levels of pianistic proficiency. The Semi-finals will be March 8, and the finals will be on March 29 at the Consunji Theater, UP Diliman. The Grand Prizes are a Kawai Upright piano and a Yamaha Upright piano.

It is only fitting of course that a serious competition requires and deserves highly qualified judges who have received national and international accolades.

Juror Prof Najib Ismail (c) with Lyric Piano Corp President Alma Joy Cristobal and PTGPFI President Anthony Say Yu

Prof Najib Ismail is a much sought-after collaborative pianist and chamber musician who received his Bachelor of Music degree at the UST Conservatory under Fr. Manuel Maramba OSB and Leonor Kilayko and was on full scholarship from the Music Promotion Foundation of the Philippines and the Reynaldo Reyes Scholarship Grant. At the Hong Kong Academy For Performing Arts, he obtained a Professional diploma in Operatic Restiteur and Vocal Accompaniment in 1997. As a soloist, he has been featured with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra and the UST Orchestra. In 2014 and 2016, Prof Ismail collaborated with Korean opera soprano Sumi Jo, and in 2015 and 2016 with Romanian soprano Nelly Miriciou. In 2016, he performed 2 of Schubert’s major song cycles Die Schöne mullerin with tenor Arthur Espiritu and Winterreise with Korean baritone Park Byong In. Prof Ismail has performed with almost every major Philippine classical artist and has done collaborative, chamber music, and solo performances in Spain, Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Indonesia, China, Hong Kong, and Korea.

 

Juror Prof Harold Galang (c) with Ms Cristobal and Mr Yu

Prof Harold Perfecto Galang is currently the Chair of the Department of Music of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS) and concurrently the Vice Chair for Arts and Culture Section of the Presidential Committee for Arts, Culture and Sports (PCACS) of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. He finished his Master of Music in Piano Performance at the  top three of his piano class under the Czech pedagogue Jan Horack as a national scholar of the Ministry of Education of Japan (Monbusho) with thesis: “Shoupan:  Dobyu-shi o  shiisa suru houkosei” (The Impressionistic Aspect of Chopin’s Music). He  had  music master classes in San Francisco and New York City and is  currently pursuing his PhD. Degree in Music Performance at the PWU School of Music. Prof Galang has performed and concertized in numerous cities of Europe, Northern and Central America, Asia and Australia.

 

Juror Inna Montesclaros with Lyric’s Alma Joy Cristobal and PTGPFI’s Anthony Say Yu

The young piano virtuoso Inna Montesclaros finished her Bachelor of Music Degree at the Royal College of Music in London, with Prof. Ian Jones and her Master of Arts Degree at the Royal Academy of Music in London with Prof. Ian Fountain, and recently finished her Advanced Diploma. She is a laureate of both national and international music competitions. In July 2009, Inna was awarded Gold Prize at the 2009 Asia International Piano Academy Festival and Competition in Cheonan, South Korea, the Silver Prize at the 1st International Piano Competition in Hanoi, Vietnam – (September 2010), and the Bronze Prize & Sole Winner, Concerto B Category, at the 4th International Chopin Piano Competition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (November, 2010). Inna was also First Prize winner in five prestigious Philippine piano competitions– Third Rosario Picazo Competition (June 2004), the National Music Competition for Young Artists (NAMCYA) Piano Category A2 (November 2004), the 2005 Competition for Young Artists, Category A, (February 2005), and the Piano Teachers’ Guild of the Philippines (PTGP) Mozart Concerto Competition, Category B (November 2006), and  Piano Teachers Guild of the Philippines (PTGP) Beethoven Concerto Competition, Category C (July 2010).  In 2017, she was awarded Bronze Prize at the Rising Stars Grand Prix Competition in Berlin, Germany with her duo partner, polish violinist Ada Witczyk. And in 2018, she was chosen to participate in the prestigious Georges Enescu International Festival and Competition in Bucharest, Romania.

Below: (L-r) PTGPFI Secretary Jonathan Gutierrez, former PTGPFI President Mary Ann Espina, Lyric Piano Corp President Alma Joy Cristobal, pianist Inna Montesclaros, Prof Najib Ismail, Prof Harold Perfecto Galang, and PTGPFI President Anthony Say Yu