Saturday, November 4, 2017, This day was so memorable that it would be impossible for us to forget it.
This historical theater was built during the era of the former Emperor’s administration.
Whoever you ask in Ethiopia will tell you that it is the “BEST!"
This theater has its own exclusive traditional musicians and dancers. The special seat used by the Emperor has been preserved until now, and its general use is forbidden.
This is the best theater in Ethiopia, and the cultural center of Ethiopia. HEAVENESE was honored to perform at this prestigious national theater at an event hosted by the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and Environment.
We can’t get ready due to repeated power loss!
It was unprecedented for us to get everything ready by 4:00 on the day of the performance without having done any preparation the day before. On top of that, our band members and staff who were staying at the Melody Hotel were delayed due to blackouts. Also, the bus that was to pick them up didn’t come on time. Due to these circumstances, our preparation start time was greatly delayed.
Things cannot be done according to schedule in this country.
As we were preparing to leave our hotel in order to reach the venue slightly after the Melody Hotel group, I got a call from our director Mr. Kobayashi.
He said, “Even if you come now, nothing can be done, so please take your time. There’s no need to hurry!“
“Huh? What do you mean?” I asked. He replied, “The circuit breaker keeps tripping. We can’t do anything without power, ah!!! It tripped again!”
This is a song that we must sing in Ethiopia.
Even though we were lacking some musical equipment at the venue (which was not according to the plan) our sound specialist, Ms. Ishii, got to the venue early and did her best to deal with this situation. Yet what awaited her was a storm of blackouts.
“Please just prepare for an acoustic show; we have to get prepared to play unplugged!!” Mr. Kobayashi repeatedly said on the phone.
The theater told us that there was a generator at the theater which was used in the event of a power failure, so there was no need to worry, but it took at least a minute for this generator to switch on. That meant the venue would be completely dark for a minute due to power failure. Actually, it took about three minutes for the power to come back on while we were on the phone.
Dealing with an unexpected power failure is always part of our rehearsing in Japan. When the electricity goes out the keyboards, the base guitar and vocals will disappear, and the show will continue with the drums, taiko drums, saxophone, shakuhachi, koto and shamisen.
As power loss was a reality, we had a meeting to go over what to do when the power went out during virtually every point in the show and even what to do if the power went out in the middle of a song; we planned what we would do. However, as the blackouts seemed to be so relentless, we were concerned whether or not there would actually be a concert.
Half of the channels on the mixing board were broken
The sound was a real issue.
Our sound specialist, Ms. Ishii who has accompanied us on all of our oversea tours, has under all circumstances managed to prepare for the concerts just fine. The trust we have in her is tremendous.
But when I arrived at the venue that afternoon, I could not hear any sound. "What are you waiting for?” I asked. She said, ”Only half of the lines that were said to be usable at the meeting are working!”
This theater is certainly historical; the most prestigious place for art and culture in Ethiopia.
However, it and everything associated with it have not been kept up. Things were not functioning properly.
The mixing board was obsolete; one we no longer see it in Japan. The lines that our sound specialist was planning to use were not working properly.
There may not be the budget to replace the equipment.
In many respects, it was diametrically opposed to how the Japanese Imperial Theater is.
There was no running water in the bathroom sink in our dressing room which was a unsanitary for us. I know it’s not a modern building, yet the condition of this building blew me away.
It couldn’t be helped; this is what we had to work with. This place is the highly esteemed center of Ethiopian culture.
With many of the lines not working, we were in a bind.
As a band, we couldn’t make sound!
While changing the wires, it was taking forever for Ms. Ishi to check the lines one by one to see where the problems were. In fact, this is not the work of a PA but that of an audio equipment technician. However, the musical equipment had not been checked and was left broken and not repaired.
There was no sound, and we could neither do our soundcheck nor rehearsal until two in the afternoon. We were running out of time.
"Kaori, forget about things that are not working, let’s start our sound check anyway as best as we can!”
"No, I can get it to work; just give me a little more time.“
This exchange went on for a while.
We had sound！！！
That was a delightful moment.
It was around 2:00 in the afternoon, two hours before the theater doors would open. We had sound from all our band members.
Yay!!! We were excited as if our show had been over.
Finally we could start our sound check and do our rehearsal.
Since we were short of monitor channels, the band members had to share the monitors standing side by side. Still, our joy was great, so we did not care much about the fine sound adjustment. Fine adjustment could cause a blackout, which could result in ruining the evening. Under such an extreme condition like this, I didn’t care much about the sound balance.
We finished rehearsing and went to the dressing room to have our final hair and makeup done for the show.
In Ethiopia if you are bit by a bedbug, it will cause tremendous itchiness. I heard that when you sit on an old cloth sofa or seats on the bus or in taxi, you will get bit. So I put a plastic sheet over the dressing room's old sofa.
A TV station came to interview us on that day of our performance.
There was no space in the dressing room to interview us all, so I alone was interviewed in an yard behind the theater. Later I found out this TV station had come to see us at the press conference.
We had been featured regularly on the various media outlets since we arrived in Ethiopia.
Many people saw us on the news and on TV.
Our support team were handing out our flyers in the market, one of the people they gave the flyer to said, he just watched HEAVENESE on the news. We heard a taxi driver say the same thing.
Just before the performance started, our hearts were united by the ancient words of an old sage!
Ambassador Saita arrived 30 minutes before the performance which was scheduled to start at 5:00pm.
Various kinds of media were also there at the venue.
For this great purpose we came to this country.
Before the performance, I confirmed once again the purpose of civilian diplomacy and the expectations of people and the circumstances of this country, for instance, singing Gospel music at a government hosted event cannot be done; singing an Ethiopian hit song in the gospel cncert is customarily unacceptable. However, we were about to do something new.
I read a passage from Isaiah 43:19 in the Old Testament.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it spring us up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
These words of an ancient Israelite sage which were written over 2600 years ago are what the current Israelis had held onto as they sought to revive their nation which had once been destroyed. Just as these words said, Israel turned the desert into a lush green land.
We reconfirmed the purpose of this show which was as in anything, the most difficult thing is to lead the way because you have to go down a road that does not exist.
Possessing the unique “Japanese” brand we are going to do something nobody has ever done before.
Taking pride in who we are, not trying to show off, but standing on the stage with a heart of dedication to return our gifts to heaven since all our talents have come from above.
As we always do before we go on stage to perform, we made a circle and held hands to be unified through prayer and especially prayer for no power loss and with the shout of “HEAVENESE”, we were fired up and ready to perform.
Given that major blackouts occurred repeatedly that morning, we had to be ready for one or two to occur during the show, if it happened, we would resume our show as if nothing happened with applause when the electricity came back on again.