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Meet Tamaki Hagihara - Japan

“...I hope to be of help for the music culture of Trinidad and Tobago as it has been my inspiration throughout my career.”

In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks - Tamaki Hagihara shares her personal journey and perspective on the global reach and influence of the Steel Pan instrument, its music, and the art form in cultivating an environment for change.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “Tell us about Tamaki Hagihara?”

Tamaki H. - “One of the professional steel pan players in Japan. Born in Yamanashi prefecture, living in Yokohama at present. In 2002, fell in love with Steelpan and quit job of teaching at elementary school to become professional steel pan player. Appeared in prestigious Japanese TV broadcasting programs including ones from NHK, as well as many events. Her life work of commitment to community building through her Steelpan is recognized by many including awards given by the local government in 2016.

“Member of the PANORAMA Steel Orchestra, leader of her own band “Caribbean Breeze,” and also focusing on her solo profession as pan player. Her performance experiences include workshops, concerts and events at schools and various other venues such as cruise ships domestically and internationally. Her recent work includes Steelpan collaboration with traditional Japanese instruments.”

“日本のスティールパン奏者。 山梨県生まれ、神奈川県横浜市在住。 2002年スティールパンと出会う。 小学校の先生をやめてスティールパン奏者になりました。 日本のテレビ局NHK(=Japan Broadcasting Corporation)の番組やイベントに出演し、スティールパンを含めた地域での貢献により、2016年に地域放送文化賞を受賞。 パノラマスティールオーケストラのメンバー。 自身のスティールバンド”カリビアンブリーズ”のリーダー。 学校、各種イベント、クルーズシップなど、国内外で演奏している。 最近では和楽器とのコラボレーションにも力を入れている。”

WST - “When and how did you first become associated with the steelpan instrument?”

Tamaki H. - “Watched a TV program introducing the carnival of Trinidad and Tobago, and I was fascinated by the music of the Steelpan orchestra that consisted of 120 players.”  


WST - “What made you fall in love with the steelpan instrument and its music?”

Tamaki H. - “Since I was 3 years old until I was in high school, I have played piano and many percussions in a school band and brass band.  I first encountered Steelpan in 2002 and fell in love ever since with pan as a percussion with scales.”  

“音楽は3歳から高校までピアノを習い、学校では鼓笛隊や吹奏楽のパーカッションを担当していました。 2002年にスティールパンに出会い、音階のある打楽器、音色の素晴らしさに惹かれて、スティールパンを心から好きになりました。”

WST - “Have you ever been dissuaded from being involved with Pan?”

Tamaki Hagihara
Tamaki Hagihara

Tamaki H. - “Pan is still not a widely known instrument in Japan. It is hard to find places to practice.  We explain the Steelpan at all events we play though it’s still not commonly known.”


WST - “What keeps your passion for the instrument going and culture?”

Tamaki H. - “As I stated above, pan is still not widely known in Japan. I passionately do hope that more people would get to know the pan and its beautiful music. This passion drives me everyday to perform and learn to be better. Pan has such possibility as it is an instrument that can be played as a solo as well as a band.  In my life, pan comes first as I am deeply fascinated by the broad possibility of pan music and want to explore more.”


WST - “Which Pan is your favorite and why?”

Tamaki H. - “Tenor pan is my favorite. It is the most handy! :) The tenor pan can bring such intricate melody line as it has a wide range of octaves.”

“テナーパンです。 まず持ち運びが楽なこと(笑) それから、メロディ楽器としていろんな曲が手軽に奏でられるからです。”

WST - “Panorama Steel Orchestra is one of Japan’s music gems. What is it that makes Panorama Steel Orchestra so special?”

Tamaki H. - “First and foremost, original compositions and such rich arrangement of tunes, both by our leader Mr. Yoshihiro Harada, are what make PANORAMA Steel Orchestra (referred to as PSO) so special and unique.  In addition, PSO is special in that all of us, the players of the band, respect Mr. Harada and look up to him. This feeling of togetherness and respect for the leader make all tunes played rich with joy and contentment of sharing such time together.”


WST - “Tell us about your experiences with the Panorama Steel Orchestra?”

Tamaki H. - “I joined PSO in the year 2006.  Up until 2015, I played tenor pan and now I play the 6 bass.  I love playing both melody and bass, and I feel quite lucky to be able to learn Mr. Harada’s arrangement playing in different sections of the band.

“PSO is THE best steel pan orchestra in Japan and I feel very blessed to take part in it.  Happiness is contagious. Every performance not only brings joy to the audience but also for myself.”



Tamaki Hagihara organized this large event with 100 pan players in Yamanashi prefecture of Japan in 2013, in tandem with Mr. Ray Holman
Tamaki Hagihara organized this large event with 100 pan players in Yamanashi prefecture of Japan in 2013, in tandem with Mr. Ray Holman (in red, upper center part of image)

WST - “How was the International Panorama for you?”

Tamaki H. - “The performance was so wonderful as we all put so much effort into the 8 minutes of performance together as one. The moment I looked around the stage behind the 6 bass pans took my breath away as I was just so content to see the Japanese PANORAMA steel orchestra be on the International PANORAMA stage. The moment when we were announced to be 9th place, I was moved so much by the great leadership of Mr. Harada and the tight teamwork of all members. I am thankful to countless people who supported us throughout our journey.”

“この8分のために全てをかけてきた、最高のステージでした。 ステージ上の、担当していた6ベースの位置からステージ全体を眺めた時、"日本の”、”パノラマスティールオーケストラ”がインターナショナルパノラマのステージに立っていることにとても感動しました。


WST - “If you had the power to change something in Pan immediately what would that be?”

Tamaki H. - “It would be to organize places to practice. I have no panyard but I would really love to see areas where many can practice in various places.” 



WST - “What have you been most proud about as it relates to pan?”

Tamaki H. - “I was most proud when I was awarded a prize from the NHK (The TV broadcasting service), especially because I have worked so hard to pay forward to the community through appearing on the TV and events. When I hear that my music has touched, moved, and made my audiences smile.”  

“番組やイベントなど、地域のために一生懸命頑張った結果、NHKから賞をいただいたこと。 私が演奏した音楽を聴いてくださった方々が、癒される、元気が出る、笑顔になれる…といつも言ってくださること。”

Tamaki Hagihara
Tamaki Hagihara

WST - “What disappoints you the most in the steelpan movement?”

Tamaki H. - “I am so proud and happy that there are many Japanese visitors to Trinidad and Tobago in recent years. I was so disappointed to know that my dear friend Asami Nagakiya, who loved Trinidad so dearly, was killed in Trinidad.”


WST - “What would be your advice to the thousands of young female players all over the world who are dreaming of following in footsteps such as yours?”

Tamaki Hagihara
Tamaki Hagihara

Tamaki H. - “Try everything you feel to try! I have believed that goals can be achieved if we put all 100% effort into our goals.”  

“やりたい!と思ったことは、片っ端から行動に移すべし!です。 100%の想いは必ず実現する!と信じてこれまで進んできたので、そう伝えたいです!”

WST - “What is the most serious challenge facing Pan in Japan?”

Tamaki H. - “The fact that we have very limited spaces in the inner city to practice. To find space to practice as a big group is much harder.”


WST - “Who, and what are you musical influences?”

Tamaki H. - “My musical background of playing piano and percussion have been the backbone of my musicality as a steel pan player. Music from Trinidad and Tobago as well as music by Japanese musicians, who I admire, have influenced greatly my music. I feel very lucky that I also gain a lot of inspiration and encouragement from people all over Japan who have supported me throughout my career.”  

“幼少の頃からのピアノ、パーカッションは今のスティールパン奏者の元を作ったものだと思います。 そして、トリニダード・トバゴの音楽や日本の先輩ミュージシャンの音楽からも大きな影響を受けました。日本各地で支えてくださる人がいるということがとても幸運な事だと思います。”

WST - “Is Panorama a curse or blessing from your perspective?”

Tamaki H. - “Definitely a blessing! Playing pan as part of a large steel orchestra brings me profound joy and happiness and I feel very lucky to have had chance to play pan.”  


WST - “What changes, if any, have you noticed since you first started out in Pan years ago, and present day 2017?”

Tamaki H. - “Since when I started playing pan, there are now more places and classes for pan lessons. There are more opportunities for prospective pan players to learn pan.”


Tamaki Hagihara
Ray Holman & Tamaki Hagihara, right

WST - “What is your vision for the steelpan instrument?”

Tamaki H. - “My vision is that pan will be more popular and welcomed by the people of Japan from now on. I would like to pay forward the traditional music of Japan to the next generation while paying respect to the music of pan and the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”

“パンは今後、日本中もっとたくさんの人々に広がって行くと思います。 私はトリニダード生まれの楽器やトリニダードの人々に敬意を表しながら、日本の昔から伝わる音楽を次の世代に繋げられるよう、奏でていきたいと思っています。”

WST - “Are there any other steelband-related matters you would like to bring forward?”

Tamaki H. - “4 years ago, I organized a large event of playing pan with 100 players in Yamanashi prefecture of Japan. I am very thankful to Mr. Ray Holman, who came all the way to Japan to perform with us. His virtuosic musicality has inspired us all and I feel very lucky to have witnessed his creativity first hand.  

“Throughout my career as a pan player, I have gained a “family of pan players” in Trinidad and Tobago. I would like to send them love and my appreciation for being part of my life.”

“I love pan! No PAN, No Life for Tamaki!!”

“4年前に山梨県内で、日本では珍しいスティールパンを100人で演奏するイベントを行った時に、レイホールマン氏が来日してくださったことに改めて感謝します。 そして、トリニダードにいるたくさんの”ファミリー”たちにも感謝しています。 私はスティールパンが大好きです!私にとってスティールパンのない人生は考えられません!”

Tamaki Hagihara
Ray Holman with Tamaki Hagihara, right

Panorama Steel Orchestra Performance @ ICP

photos provided by Tamaki Hagihara

Their Story, Their Voice, Their Life, Their Dreams - click for more stories


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