Grammy Musician Dana Leong travels to Omachi City, Japan to collaborate with the head priest of Nyakuichioji Shrine. He is the first foreigner in 800 years to perform in the shrine remixing traditional Shinto Cleansing Prayer with traditional Japanese instruments and cello, dedicated to world peace!
Directed & Edited by: Takahiro Ozawa: 小澤貴弘
Executive Producer: Shingo Komatsu: 小松信吾
Music Composed & Produced by: Dana Leong: デーナ・レオン
Associate Producer: Michiko Zento: 善塔倫子
Camera: Kiyoshi Saito: 齋藤清
Chief Priest: Naohiko Takeuchi 竹内直彦
Musicians: Azuma Murokawa 室川東
Kouichi Hata: 羽田浩一 Taichi Matui: 松井泰智
TEKTONIK ft Dana Leong | Into The Light (Official Video)
Trailer｜TEKTONIK ft Dana Leong | Into The Light (Official Video)
When an 800-year-old shrine in the mountains of Japan invites you be the first foreigner to enter and remix their traditional song and chant, you GO remix their song and chant! Nestled in the mountains of Omachi City (in the Nagano region which hosted the 1998 winter Olympics) is the small, slightly hidden Nyakuichi Oji Shrine. There, local people visit during monumental life moments such as marriage, New Year’s Day and blessing of a new child.
Japanese culture is very deliberate and exact, yet often it is also very much understated. Thus, one of my biggest concerns is to be careful not to overstep my welcome, accepting that “the rules are the rules” and likely exist for a very logical reason. Therefore, I took a very unique approach to composing on the spot with this project as I wanted the end result to have a modern sound, without taking any of our collaborators far out of their comfort zone during the process.
When I stepped foot into the shrine with head priest Naohiko Takeuchi, I soon realized we don’t share the same musical language or mother tongue, but we share the same vocabulary. For example, the sheet music for the traditional instruments were written in numbers and not musical notation. After finding we share a common goal of using music to create harmony between cultures, he picked a Shinto Prayer with a theme to cleanse the soul and resonate peace in the world. I noticed that this prayer had a strong rhythm and pitch to it.
Once I heard the chant together with the three traditional instruments (Sho, Shichiriki & Ryuteki) I could hear the rhythm of the remix playing in my head. However, we had to think very quickly how to achieve that result as time and daylight was limited!
The beat came to me almost immediately and then I visualized how each of the sounds would fit together in my mind. I decided we could record it in layers and began to visualize and further compose the layers in my head on the spot. First, we would record the Naohiko’s Chant with the instruments so we could use his chant as the basis for a rhythm. Next, we recorded a layer with just the instruments and then the drum beat. This was my chance to have a clean copy of the instruments while also having one chance to hear and memorize the song! I then recorded loops of cello rhythms and long notes which I knew could be added into hypnotic sweeps and fit together in tempo and harmony.
These days every composer uses computer software to ‘paint blocks of sound’ onto the screen and then mix them together accordingly. I filmed the cello parts as one long video take, imagining what the layers would sound like once they were all assembled. It was almost like painting a picture while blindfolded. Some people do this with a loop pedal, but knowing our end result it was going to be video, I felt it would be more useful way to see the layers being built. Since I do not read the same numeric notation I did my best to memorize the melodies that the musicians were playing and then play my own version in the rhythm that I wanted.
After this, we took all the layers and crafted the final remix that you can hear in the video. I hope you will enjoy and be inspired to share it. This certainly would not have been possible without the support of executive producer Shingo Komatsu, whose family has been members of the shrine for many generations and our wonderful director / producer team Takahiro Ozawa and Michiko Zentoh (the former field producer for Anthony Bourdain) who helped me understand the cultural history and importance of this time and place. There is something truly special about trusting the process and people who come into your life. Let’s continue to celebrate and embrace that harmony heals.
Dana Leong is a two-time Grammy award-winning musician, composer, and producer.
Considered by many to be the world’s top electric cellist, he has also been referred to as world’s top trombone player by members of the world-renowned Balkan Beat Box.
Dana Leong｜Official Web｜
TEKTONIK, led by Grammy award-winning sonic architect Dana Leong, is a collective uniting artists across multiple mediums from music to visual and culinary. After Leong’s family was affected by the 2011 natural disaster in Japan, he started the initiative using music & art as a storytelling vehicle to remediate negative impact on people and geographies affected by disaster. With a focus on the healing power of music & art, TEKTONIK music mixes new electronic beats and visuals with ancient traditional art for a one of a kind uplifting sensory experience. Their content has been seen by over 100 million viewers and featured with organizations such as Alibaba, TEDxShanghai, IPCN TV, Save the Children, United Nations, Four Seasons, UBS, The Rubin Museum in New York City, Shanghai Fashion Week & Art Festival and World Economic Forum.