Special songs of Fukagawa Geisha: Te-uchi

Special songs of Fukagawa Geisha: Te-uchi

Te-uchi is a genre heard mainly, if not exclusively within the karyukai. The origin of this musical genre is known as Kyoto Gion.  Te-uchi is performed by geisha on occasions where congratulations to a patron or customer are to be expressed in a grandiose manner.

Te-uchi is one of the most rhythmical pieces of Geisha music because of its instrumentation. The instrumentation of te-uchi is consisting of:

  • Hyoshigi, Long wooden clappers
  • Shamisen
  • Taiko
  • Singers (vocals)

Interestingly, among any other Geisha music, te-uchi contains the largest number of percussions, such as hyoshigi and taiko. These clappers (hyoshigi) fill aural space between rhythm patterns supplied by taiko. The vocals play melody lines with the form of “call and response”, which is similar to African music. From this form of music, we could find a musical link between African music and geisha music.

Two older geisha (geiko) serve as “master players” and provide a basic structure for the rest of the group, which is originated in Edo period. Remain of Geiko shows the traces of the music from Edo period. This is because, the representative music of Edo period was a chant, done by fans and patrons for Kabuki actors as they performed at the theater. One version of te-uchi performed by Gion geiko is believed to have an Edo-influenced te-uchi. From this musical feature, we could discover that Geisha music was hugely influenced by the historical Japanese theater music as well.

Reference: “The Gei of Geisha: Music, Identity and Meaning” – by Kelly M.Foreman


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