SAORI: WEAVING A NEW WORLD, ONE THREAD AT A TIME
Written December 2004, upon return from Japan
The threads that brought me to Japan were woven by a young differently abled woman who I met in Washington D.C. last June at the VSA Arts International Festival. She had made a scarf of vibrant hues, of pinks, oranges, yellow, and had given this to me. I was so moved, as she was with my own gift to her of "Crescent Moon". In October, Akiko Jo invited me to participate in the VSA Arts of Japan International Festival. Through love and synergy, it became possible to travel to this small island country, and experience a remarkable trip.
SAORI is a revolutionary idea, a social activist project to weave a new world, one thread at a time ... same as drumming a new world, one pulse at a time! The web we weave through sound, through color, rhythm, smiles, shared concerns, passions, ideas, love, respect became wider and more encompassing through this journey.
The Jo Family began SAORI about 30 years ago. Misao Jo, now 92 times around the sun, still passionate and full of vitality, with a vibrant voice and energetic body, hatched the vision of Saori along with her two sons, Eigi San and Kenzo San, It was not only a project to encourage individual expression through the weaving of color and form, but had its roots in the vision that we must, as a human race, embrace self-knowledge, self-motivation, inner truth ... that we must change our approach to formal education with its precise outcomes and competitive nature. In Japan, where children who complained of headaches or stomachaches in response to the rigorous educational demands and schedules were thought to be mentally retarded just twenty years ago, and instituionalized, this idea was particularly revolutionary.
Misao San had studied the tea ceremony as well as ikebana (the art of flower arranging) and had become disenchanted with its structures and rigid right and wrong ways. Saori weaving began with housewives weaving their way out of the rigidity of their traditional ways of being. They learned a practice that insured success, that unleashed right and wrong, that encouraged self-discovery, exploration, experimentation, loosening of the rules that bound their spirits. They found a pathway, a meditation, full of color, of tactile pleasure, of rhythm both steady and open to sudden change, to improvisation. They gathered together, laughing with each other, enjoying the company of other women, exclaiming over each other's creations, oohing and aahing over color choices, textures, unique, one-of-a-kind apparel.
The project expanded over time to include people of all ages, both abled and differently abled, again insuring success for ALL, providing a pathway for weaving inner turmoils, desires, and problems,into pattern, form, color ... giving evidence of growth, healing, expansion as one idea gave way to another, then another, and another. Today there are Saori projects in over 40 countries of the world. The web continues to be woven, with the younger members of the Jo family bringing their own heart and soul to the project, morphing according to the laws of evolution. Eigi San, the loving patriarch, with Saori cap perched over large, shining eyes, presiding over and mentoring Tesuya, Madoka, Akiko, Masami, Tomoko and others of the Jo and Saori family. Eigi San, a man with passion to keep the vision alive, as well as with the grace and confidence required to allow for its evolution, integrating the ideas and desires of the younger generation, desires no less than a worldwide educational and social revolution. I didn't realize when I came to Japan that I would be staying with the remarkable family of such a man, with the Jo family, the Saori family. I have an image of Eigi San showing me the Zen symbol, explaining the four kanji characters for "self" "know" "enough" "only" ... loosely translated to suggest "know only self enough", or self knowledge alone is enough. Their influence in my life is and will be profound.
I write this with deep gratitude and affection for:
** Shoko San and Jackie San of Yamaha Music Trading Company in Tokyo, who so completely took care of me upon arrival, who so effectively and efficiently (amazing, really!) arranged for music therapy magazine interviews, for drum workshops, meetings, and meals, transportation (making sure i was on the right train, and awake to disembark!) and also supported the VSA arts festival through the use of their Remo instruments. They are truly helping Japan to drum a new world, one pulse at a time. And i was delighted to share my own passions with those gathered. It was just great!
** John Fitzgerald, Remo Belli, and Christine Stevens of Remo in USA, for their support of my trip to Japan.
** Lesli and The Living Free Foundation, without whose support this trip would have been impossible.
** Kaoru and Naomi, and Haruhi, and the group of framedrummers that gathered one night with such depth of sound and rhythm. I hope for more!
** Akiko San, of VSA Arts and Saori of Japan, for her invitation to participate, for her willingness to follow her impulse and intuitions
** Eriko, Robert, Ekuko, and their moms, for such kindness, gifts, and welcoming spirits
** Kinki (Suya, David, Su, Emeiko, Minalu) for our fusion of love, good food, great music, and conspiring spirits. You are family.
** Makoto, for your willingness to be a travel guide for a day!
** Christine Jones, Peter, Izi, and Ute for your souls of jazz, for your spirits of improvisation and joy
**and again to the Jo Family (Eigi, Madoka, Tesuya, Hirami), and to the people of SAORI, for your kindness, generosity, and guidance, ... and for lighting the path to a better world.