When they went out of their apartment in Brooklyn, they saw clouds of smoke from Manhattan.
“Was it because of a big fire or something?“
“There was a huge thunder storm last night.”
Kanako Omae (17) and her mother Kyoko (44), they talked easily.
But when they went to shopping, there were many sirens of fire engines and police cars. And they watched a television and found out that the World Trade Center had disappeared.
“I didn’t understand what happened, so I was stupefied at that time.”
It happened only 2 days after they started their lives in NY.
Kanako came to New York in order to be a drummer. When she was junior high school student, she was fascinated by Rock’n Roll music, then she made a band with friends in high school, started to play drums. She played violent drums, she felt uplift by the beat which made her want to scream. Then she wanted to practice drums seriously in the home of Entertainment.
When she told her father “I will quit high school and go to New York”, Hirokazu, her father (47) opposed furiously. The family talked about her request many times, and he permitted her with one condition that was “live with mother”. Kyoko, her mother who managed cramming school in Kanagawa prefecture, thought “she should go to New York to take control of her dream instead of keep going to high school. So I decided to support her.”
Terrorism showed Kanako “the hardness of real life,” before that she only wanted to make her dream of being a musician comes true.
All music disappeared from the city. There were some scary rumors like “there is the bomb in a subway,” ”There will be another terrorism in the near future.”
She went to near the scene of terrorism to pray for victims with crane origami, she felt so scary and she could not say anything.
She could not find any band which accepts her. She looked for the band from papers, but all of the bands refused because she is Japanese and only 16 years old. Finally she found one band, but the bass player hated her obviously. She realized how serious the racial discrimination is.
On the other hand, Kanako prayed and cheer for America when she Watched many building with the Stars and Stripes.
She read many books about philosophy and world religion in order to know her feeling of fear and pray.
She never thought of going back to Japan. She practiced harder and harder, and she started to have confidence that she can live in New York as a musician.
“I’m not interested in playing angry music anymore. I want to be a “tender drummer.”
Kanako had joined a new band, and told me about her purpose of “tender drummer” over the phone.
Before terrorism, if she could enjoy herself she was satisfied enough. Now she wants people to listen to her “happy Rock” as cheerfully. She wants to give happy messages to people.
On September 12th,2002, she will have a benefit show. “I want to play for the people. I want them to be happy and to have a hope for tomorrow."
New York accepted the 16 years old Kanako. Now she thinks that if she can make audience happy through her music, she will be happy.
Kanako Omae (17) is a Japanese fusion drummer living and flourishing in New York City.
There she is, immediately recognizable because she is both an Asian and very young. She has earned good reputations in the NY music scenes because when she plays the drums she infuses her performance with something unique and often absent from a lot of drummer’s playing: cheerfulness. Most drummers do not manage to capture this elusive quality. Her band, an instrumental four-piece, will release a first album Welcome to New York from her website in February. Japanese people will also be able to purchase her CD in Japan by going to her website.
“Her drumming is not excessively showy, but she has a terrific grasp of accuracy and feel. The first time most audiences see her, they often doubt that she can play. Indeed, they are skeptical that she is the drummer at all because she is such a small, young girl. However, by the end of the show, she has always won them over” (reported by a Japanese Journalist in NY).
Kanako is a notable Japanese artist (with her own edge on performers like Utada Hikaru who are still trying futilely to gain some acclaim from the U.S. audiences). Kanako first became interested in rock music in junior high where she put together her first band. At the time she chose drums because “drums were capable of externalizing the rough rock n’ roll spirit” she felt inside. She resolved to quit high school in order to pursue this vision. Because Kanako is a very determined person, she overcame the opposition of her father, relatives and friends. She came to New York to pursue her dreams of becoming a musician only 2 days before September 11th, 2001.
This event had a big effect on her: “After this I became to want to be a tender drummer who tried to play drums in order to make the audience feel happier and more cheerful. I had seen the people in New York do their best to overcome the shock from 9-11, and wanted to focus my music more on invoking that spirit.” 9.11 also affected her and she changed her whole style of playing to accommodate this new approach, moving away from rock towards more of a funk and jazz-based style.
“Asian musicians can gain acceptance as jazz or classical musicians, but it is very hard in popular music. From the beginning I had to overcome some pretty severe racial discrimination.” These experiences were painful and disheartening, but still Kanako persisted and this year she completed her first album. At this time she has no current connection with Japanese record labels so she is planning on promoting her music through her energizing live shows and by her website: KanakoDrums.com
Once you see her distinctive playing and smile you will never believe it’s a 17 year old girl!
We interviewed 19 year old Kanako Omae. Several years ago she quit high school because she wanted to be a drummer and she moved to New York to live with her mother and pursue this dream. We interviewed her to try and ascertain how she felt about her music after the three years of living with her mom in NY.
--Why did you want to be a drummer?—
“When I was a child, I played piano and flute. During my 2nd year of junior high, I became interested in live music because I was inspired after attending a show of my favorite band.
Later on, I was a member of the music club in my high school. I formed my first band in high school. When I first saw the drums I was astonished by their power and energy and I realized that this was the instrument I wanted to play. I concluded that I needed to go to New York to study drums. Although this dream was far-fetched I became increasingly convinced that this is what I needed to do.
Naturally, my father was opposed to this idea, because I was only in my first year of high school. Moreover, I am his only daughter and he was reluctant to let me go. We discussed it many times and ultimately he relented under the condition that I go ‘with my mother’”.
--After you went to the U.S., was it easy for you to play?—
“Initially it was very hard for me. I couldn’t find a band and also I couldn’t speak English. I looked through flyers and ads on magazines, but no one replied or paid any attention to me. The reasons were always the same: “You’re only 16 years old,” “You’re a girl,” and “You’re a Japanese girl.” Then the terrible events of 9-11 occurred and all the live music that normally happens in New York completely stopped. There were many terrifying rumors about new threats and I felt very scared. But eventually musicians came back to play again. The city became active again and I noticed that people seemed to be healed by the music.
Thus, I really felt that after 9-11 people became more gentle. Consequently, I changed my music style. I decided that I was no longer interested in bringing aggressive rock drumming into the world – I wanted to be a tender drummer instead. After I had this important change of perspective, I was able to find a band. Now I play with my band ‘Fake ID’. Our music can best be described as Jazz, Funk and Fusion.”
--Describe in more detail this change of perspective?—
“Initially, I thought that if I played rock music, then I wouldn’t need an education. But since I went to a language school (ZONI) I have realized this isn’t the case. You need education no matter what you do. Now I have taken the G.E.D. and I am currently applying to American colleges. There are so many races and cultures in New York. Being in an environment which is very different from Japan allowed me to find new possibilities and new hopes for my future.
At B.I.M.C. (a music school I am involved in), they accept many kinds of young people who don’t go to school. When people don’t go to school they are always being told to ‘cheer up!’ but the solutions for this problem are often more sophisticated and resist easy answers. If you have lost an idea of how to pursue this goal and get your life on track, then B.I.M.C. can help.”
--What are your immediate musical goals?—
“On February 1st, we will release the CD Welcome to New York. I wrote all the music for this album. Generally I compose music when I am near water, like when I’m taking a shower or doing the dishes etc. In addition, this spring we are planning a tour in Japan. Besides this, I want to have a lot of shows. I love playing music. So I hope to make more music, to play the drums more, and I want to develop as an entertainer who truly makes people happy.”