Meet Toshihisa Kuzume, an artisan, musician and teacher of the djembe in Nagahama in Kochi City. The djembe is a traditional, goblet-shaped drum originating in West Africa that is found at most festivals and events. Several people play at a time, some beating the drums by hand or with other apparatus like horns and drumsticks.
Mr. Kuzume runs a workshop in Nagahama making these drums, Tosa Wave has caught up with him to talk about this unique trade. When Mr. Kuzume encountered the djembe as a young man, he remembers the first beat being like electricity running through his veins. He had been following the music of West Africa, and on one occasion he met a man named Moussa Keita who was playing in Kyushu. Moussa Keita, seeing that Mr. Kuzume had such passion, invited him to go to his home country, Mali, to learn the art of djembe from the locals. There, he inherited his master’s name “Kante” and is now practicing as “Djembe Kante Kuzumeya”.
Mr. Kuzume returned with the skills necessary to make his own djembe here, and as of now he is the only person who has inherited these skills in Japan. In Africa one would go to a drum carver to get a hardwood log made into the goblet shape, and then to get the sheep’s hide and ropes applied to finish the drums there are other specialists who do them, but because Mr. Kuzume wanted to bring the whole tradition back to Japan he had to learn everything from scratch, from a number of different craftspeople. He learnt that, while in Japan there can be many types of tools to carve wood, there in Mali they use only one machete to carve the whole thing.
Nowadays, aside from making djembe, Mr. Kuzume is a specialist in other wooden objects, and plays the djembe at a number of places in Kochi. If you talk to Mr. Kuzume, maybe he could make you a custom-made djembe or play at your events. He also does lessons on request so why not seek out this rare artisan of West African music in Kochi?
“Djembe Kante Kuzumeya”
3491-3-9 Nagahama, Kochi City.
Taken from vol.32 PDF