The extras that “Nagauta Shamisen” DVD had no room to include

How was the “Nagauta Shamisen” DVD, the World of Musical Instruments Collection volume 4?
Did you enjoy the world of nagauta?

This series of DVD was produced based on the recorded videos of the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments Lecture Concerts. However, the whole videos on a concert cannot be contained. It was pity that we had to cut off some pieces of music, many good scenes, and informative lectures during the production process. Some commentaries that we wanted to add were also cut because of various restrictions.

So, this is a story about “extras” which were cut off.

Extra 1, about the words of “Kyoganoko-Musume-Dojoji”

Kyoganoko-Musume-Dojoji is a dance. About the kabuki program of this title, dancing should be the first priority to be enjoyed; however, this music is also known as a masterpiece of nagauta, a song.

Not so much complicated story goes well with the audience at a dancing stage where they give expression only by dance. However, since each piece of the songs to which Hanako, a shirabyoshi (dancing girl), dances one after another has words, you’ll know the sentiment and stories of the dances by listening to the songs.

The name of the piece contained in the DVD is “Mariuta,” a song of a ball, from “Kyoganoko-Musume-Dojoji.”
The following is the Japanese script of the words.

The Tsubouchi Memorial
Theatre Museum
Digital Archives Collection

♪ 恋の分里武士も道具を伏編笠で 張りと意気地(いきじ)の吉原
花の都は歌で和らぐ敷嶋原(しきしまばら)に 勤めする身は誰と伏見の墨染

煩悩菩提の撞木町(しゅもくまち)より 浪花四筋(なにわよすじ)に通ひ木辻に 禿立ち(かむろだち)から室の早咲き それがほんに色ぢゃ 一ィ二ゥ三ィ四ゥ(ひいふうみいよう)

夜露雪の日 志もの関路(せきじ)も今宵此の身を馴染重ねて 中は丸山只丸かれと思ひ染めたが縁ぢゃへ ♪

At the beginning, you’ll hear the word “wakezato.” It means a red-light district. “Wake” is that a geisha splits the fee paid by a patron with her employer. “Zato” means a place. That is the origin of the word.
The words of this song contain many names of red-light districts around the country, starting from Yoshiwara in Edo. Then, it expresses the feelings of love borrowing the words from the geisha, “I’m employed in Shimabara…..I began to wish the two of us would be happy.”

The heroin Hanako gradually gives an air of a femme fatale according to the proceeding of the stage, and an actor plays Hanako differently until finishing with the last dance “Kaneiri.” Hanako, on the stage, is very much gorgeous, changing her dresses many times. Such a technique called hikinuki as changing a dress instantly on the stage is included in the scenes.

It would be a wonderful time for the people in Edo period to go and see kabuki while leaving daily business and housework. Now I’ve learned more about nagauta, I would love to watch live kabuki stages where instrumental performances and songs and dances should be integrated.

Extra 2, the relation between spoken lines and music

In the DVD, “Sensoji-Urano-Ba” is interpreted in terms of the relation between the play and music. In addition to it, they showed the audience how the lines and music went along in a play by actual demonstration at the original Lecture Concert. Lines are very much important for a play of course.

The lines demonstrated then were the ones by in the scene of a meeting at the Inasegawa River, in the 4th act of “Shiranami-gonin-otoko” of kabuki, that is, the scene that Nippondaemon announces himself at the Inasegawa River where 5 thieves got together.

The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum Digital Archives Collection

He made quite a long speech about himself starting with “It’s a little intrusive for me to announce myself even though I was asked my name. Why, my birthplace was Hamamatsu in Enshu district, and I grew apart from my parents since I was 14 years old….” and so on.

By the way, I’ll refer to another famous speech by Bentenkozo-kikunosuke at the scene of “Hamamatsuya-store in Yukinoshita town” in the same kabuki program, starting with the words “If you don’t know my name, then I’ll tell you…..” This lines are shown in the book, “Japanese phrases I recommend you to read out” written by Mr. Takashi Saito, so that many of you may know it.

It is said that nagauta performers are expected to play the shamisen without disturbing the lines, and that is a point for them to show off their technique.

You can watch this superb technique in the “Sensoji-Urano-Ba with interpretation.” While Kunitoshi Kineya is giving interpretation about the scenes, Tetsukurou Matsunaga next to him is adding music in a perfectly skilful manner without disturbing the talk. Thanks to his professional technique, he is doing it very naturally.


Incidentally, about the scene introducing a spoken line of Sannin-Kichiza saying “The moon is misty as well as the fishing fire….” in the “Sensoji-Urano-Ba with interpretation” in the DVD, this spoken line is known well of its last words, “Oh, spring has come to me with a forelock of Fortune.”

The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum Digital Archives Collection

There used to be a custom to walk around the neighborhood saying rhythmical lines in seven-and-five syllable meter in order to drive away evil spirits on the last day of the year under the lunar calendar. This custom was brought into kabuki and was played in the stage like the one “The moon is misty as well as the fishing fire….” and the ones I mentioned before as the spoken lines of Nippondaemon and Bentenkozo-kikunosuke.
Since those daily scenes were brought into plays, people must have enjoyed kabuki as a familiar drama.

Now, how did you like the story about extras?

Whether playing in the style of debayshi or kuromisu, Nagauta Shamisen performers were always required to provide such a play as is unified with dances and plays on the stage.
In the song “Mariuta” that I mentioned at the beginning, there are scenes where an actor dances and nagauta performers play the shamisen. Now, many troubles may happen on the stage, for instance, the actor holding a ball may trip over. Nagauta performers are ready to deal with those happenings providing many alternatives under various suppositions. During the long period of nagauta history, masters have given excellent performances even for that kind of ad-libs.

Also about the spoken lines, the lines I mentioned are still alive in our culture, and we may come across somewhere around us even if we don’t know nagauta or kabuki. The wonderful value accumulated in our history is not the past remains but carried until today as a heritage alive in modern lives.

Nagauta has a vast world in the history, and so we provided an introduction as DVD, World of Musical Instruments Collection Volume 4 “Nagauta Shamisen,” in order to show you a whole picture of it.
It’ll be our pleasure if you enjoy keeping it at your side.

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