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The Sumo Playing Folky

Last Thursday was a Japanese national holiday whose name and purpose escapes me. But I took advantage of the day off to catch my first sumo tournament. Over five hours of lumbering giant sumo swagger. Highly recommended. Especially when drunk. And the fans are f*cking insane.

During the matches I couldn’t help but think about how different the life of your average professional sumo player (or most likely the life of any professional athlete) must be from the rest of us. For one thing, once you decide to pursue sumo, there’s no turning back – as I understand it, you join your sumo stable (team/family) at around age 16-17 and then your entire life until retirement is about eating, breathing and sleeping sumo.

So what exactly does sumo have to do with the ramblings of a scatterbrained singer/songwriter?

At the risk of making some rather sweeping cultural generalizations, sumo reinforces my view of Japanese culture’s emphasis on repetition, perfection, linear thinking and upholding of rules and tradition. And while I was technically raised in a Japanese/Jewish household, as someone who can barely stick with a task for 10 minutes, I wonder if I’m a perverse representation of stereotypical American culture – bucking authority and rules, thinking non-linearly, being creative and intense but sometimes sloppy in execution.

I can’t even begin to fathom the mindset required to dedicate 1000% of my life to something. Sure, I’ve been doing music in one capacity or another for almost 30 years, but my goals and practices have deviated wildly from year to year. I honestly feel that the only thing that has stayed consistent is my desire to write and perform songs.

As someone with diagnosed a.d.d., I can’t help but wonder how much of my way of doing things is because I was raised in the U.S. What if I was raised in Japan instead. Would I be a more linear, methodical and even-tempered person? Would I have set my sights on trying to be a professional pop-rock star from the get-go without my deviations to angry folk rock and 80s covers? Or might I be stuck in an office job with a wife and kids – and if that was the case, would I even mind it that much?

Nature vs. nurture when it comes to how you approach your creativity and your career.

Given your current career and/or what you see as your life-path, how has the culture/country in which you were raised shaped it? Do you think you’d be that different if you were born and raised somewhere else?

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2010 in Music

 

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