Bucket Drummer Masa, 28, doesn’t consider himself a maker musician. Playing his homemade, hand-tuned bucket drums and PVC pipe didgeridoo, however, are his DIY claim to fame.
Tokyo, from our correspondent
He can often be found ensconced in a corner of pedestrian areas in Shibuya or Shinjuku, the crowded trendy zones of Tokyo, surrounded by a captivated audience on weekend nights. A young man wearing a baseball cap, thick black glasses and a hipster beard beats plastic buckets and metal kitchen pans, while blowing into a long PVC pipe covered in stickers.
If the spectacle is arresting, the sound is hypnotic—unrelentingly rhythmic beats, varying in tone according to the configuration of the drum, and the uninterrupted droning of an impromptu didgeridoo transform the sonic cloud into a musical trance. Bucket Drummer Masa, the stage name of street musician Masamichi Kato, mixes low-tech, endurance and the pleasure of sharing.
Masa’s personal journey began several years ago with a dream to musically tour on the road, sleeping under a tent, not spending a lot of money. There was just one problem: his heavy drum kit didn’t exactly fit into a backpack… That’s when, on the Internet, Masa discovered bucket drummers, often virtuoso street buskers who beat buckets and other handcrafted percussion instruments made from found objects. He was seduced, then convinced. He found some plastic buckets in a gas station and began experimenting with the different sounds made by beating the buckets upside-down, stacked, empty, containing various objects…
In order to distinguish himself from the many other bucket drummers throughout the world, Masa bought a long PVC pipe in a hardware store and crafted it into a didgeridoo. This traditional wind instrument—probably the oldest in the world, played by the aboriginals of Australia at least 1,500 years ago—is not easy to master, and even less so while simultaneously playing the drums.
“Once you learn circular breathing, you get used to it,” the adventurous drummer Masa modestly explains.
Bucket Drummer Masa on stage at Pesta Camp, summer 2016:
Indeed, if other DIY musicians worldwide have succeeded in perfecting, even professionalizing, their personally crafted performance of eclectic percussions (for instance, the Italian Dario Rossi), techno acoustic pipes (the Australian Pipe Guy) or even hip hop didgeridoo (the Japanese Smily), Masa seems to have found his niche by mixing genres and instruments.
“I wanted the challenge of emulating electronic music, such as techno and trance, as much as possible using analog sounds,” he says.
In February 2012, Masa began playing his bucket drums and PVC didgeridoo in the streets of Melbourne, where he was well received by the Australian public. Delighted to have finally found his vocation, he returned to Japan to enbark on the journey of his dreams: an epic tour through each one of Japan’s 47 prefectures, from Okinawa to Hokkaido, passing through his native Kanagawa south of Tokyo.
Presenting Bucket Drummer Masa (in Japanese):
His most memorable impression from his one-man roadshow came from Mie prefecture. As he performed before a small crowd, he noticed a little boy, shyly hiding behind his father, staring at his beard the whole time. The next morning, Masa received a message from the mother of the boy, who, once they got home, put on a fake beard and started beating on buckets and bowls inside the house.
Masa doesn’t consider himself to be a maker. He has given a few workshops, just as he is occasionally invited to share his music with children in kindergartens and elementary schools. But what matters the most to this bucket drummer and long pipe player is discovering happiness through playing music. As he emphasized at the end of his TEDx talk at Nagoya University in 2015, we must search for happiness outside of social norms, reveal the invisible and discover the unexpected. For Masa, at least, this revelation took the form of bucket drums and a DIY didgeridoo.