Rock the World to Make It Better.
Tetsu Kashiwa / Singer and Songwriter
I Love the Affirmation That Lives in Rock Music.
Held in high regard by the late Kyoshiro Imawano and many other prominent musicians, SalsaGumtape has touched the lives of many. For Tetsu Kashiwa, the band fulfils his sense of rock’n’roll and drives his quest to open people’s minds to living side by side with differently abled others.
We want people to forget the “disability” badge and genuinely enjoy our sound.
In early days, SalsaGumtape gave concerts at charity events and welfare institutions. I was vexed by how little headway we were making. A perfectly normal ambition, for a band, is to release a CD and perform in established music venues. When I suggested, one day, that we play at a music studio, our entourage responded with instant apprehension. “Impossible!” they said. As is often the case in the social welfare community, limits were imposed on the dreams, hopes, and self-growth of people with disabilities. It is their lives, and no one else should be the one to judge what is it possible for them and what is not.
Thankfully, the reactions from audiences in the general public were more positive. People liked our sound. We performed our first live house concert in 1997, at CLUB CITTA’ in Kawasaki city. Two years later, we recorded our song “Mahiru no Hoshi(Daylight Star)” to be presented on Songs for Everyone, a television music program on NHK. We also had a joint live performance with the Japanese rock legend Kyoshiro Imawano, who praised us as a genuine, “original rock band.” Imawano has been one of several serious rock musicians who has appreciated us for our music, unbiased by who we are. The same is true of Mickie Yoshino, the keyboard player from Godiego, and Tetsuya Kajiwara, the former drummer of The Blue Hearts. Both of them have played with SalsaGumtape. With everyone we play with, we aim constantly to be loved for our music.
SalsaGumtape fulfils my sense of rock’n’roll.
I am the one who appreciates SalsaGumtape the most; it has given me the opportunity to fill my world with the rock’n’roll I aspire to. As an artist I have always lived with my own music, even during my days as a “Uta no Onii-san(singer)”. But SalsaGumtape focuses me purely into rock, which I love. I can also see fantastic progress in band members. The band helps them think positively, set goals, develop socially, rely on themselves, be happy.
The confidence gained by performing to an audience in SalsaGumtape has great power. Even with their disabilities, our members are ordinary people like us who feel good about doing things for others. As people usually on the receiving end of support, they gain something profound from the experience of giving to make others around them happy. By playing they make a place for themselves in the world, instead of being told where they should be. Even better, they also have the share in any profits gained from event ticket sales.
I want to change people’s perceptions in Japan.
SalsaGumtape is celebrating its 25th year in 2019. Through the dedication of its members, the band has grown into something far bigger than my own passion for rock music. Twenty-five years on, there are still many things I want to achieve with SalsaGumtape. One is to change people’s perceptions in Japan, to convince them how absolutely normal it is for people with disabilities to live among us “normals.” Nowadays many people see us as a musical ensemble made up of two types of musicians, those with cognitive disabilities and those without them. But when you think about it, a society is inclusive by definition. Our inclusion of musicians with cognitive challenges should not be the defining feature of the band. One day, SalsaGumtape will capture the hearts and minds of the nation and revolutionize the perception in Japanese minds.
Rock’n’roll has been a sustenance for me throughout most of my life. The music is always there for me, no matter what choices I make along my journey. When I discovered rock music as a teenager, it opened up a whole new world to me. Rock’n’roll reassures me that it’s alright to live the way I do. Rock’n’roll affirms our lives and the world as a good place to be. The affirmation that lives in rock music makes me who I am today.
- Tetsu Kashiwa / Singer and Songwriter
- In the early 1980s, Kashiwa performed as the fifth “Uta no Onii-san (singer for children)” on “With Mother,” a children's TV show on Japan’s public broadcasting network, NHK. He also composed popular sing-along songs, such as “Suzume ga Samaba(Sparrow Samba)” and “Kimi no Namae(Your Name),” over the same period. In 1994 he formed SalsaGumtape, inviting people with cognitive challenges to join as members. SalsaGumtape has performed at the Fuji Rock Festival and collaborated with the legendary rock musician Kiyoshiro Imawano.