A Jazz Drummer Finds True Happiness
BOOM! Boom! Boom! In the glare of the theater’s stage lights, the drummer beat out the rhythm. My eyes were glued to the drums, and my heart pounded violently at the sound.
In January 1945, when World War II was in its final stages, my family took refuge with my mother’s parents in Katsunuma, Japan. After the war, Father became conductor of the town’s youth band. Watching their practice sessions, I became enthralled with the heavy booming of the drums.
When I entered high school, I set my goal to become a jazz drummer. My music teacher encouraged me to go to a music university, and my parents helped me prepare for the entrance examination. In 1964, out of the many examinees from all over Japan, I was one of the three admitted to the Percussion Instruments Department of the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.
Even though the university was the best in Japan, I was disillusioned. Why? Because it provided no training for a student to become a jazz drummer, nor did the students play jazz. Yet I worked hard at mastering the percussion instruments and developed various techniques. Gradually I abandoned my dream of becoming a jazz drummer and began to think about joining a famous orchestra. But I was in for a shock.
“However hard you try, you won’t make it,” a member of an orchestra confided to me. “The new members have already been selected, even before you entered the university.”
I felt depressed and beaten and so returned to my passion for the jazz drums. I told myself, ‘In the world of jazz, drumming ability is what counts, not the connections or pull you have.’ As graduation drew close, I was joining practice sessions of jazz clubs of various universities.
Childhood Dream Realized
Then, in 1967, I met a pianist by the name of Yosuke Yamashita. Not only did he play jazz but he was a master innovator and student of the music. We formed an unusual trio of piano, saxophone, and drums. At first neither critics nor audiences understood the eccentric and powerful jazz we were developing. Our performances were poorly attended. Yet I was satisfied. Yosuke was happy with my performance, and in time, our response to each other became sharper and rich in variation.
My drumming became unique. By constantly beating cymbal, snare drum, bass drum, and tom-tom in balance, the drum section kept resounding all the time. The swift and powerful movement of my limbs astounded audiences and gained notoriety. Once we played to an audience in the basement of the well-known Kosei Nenkin Hall in Tokyo while Japan’s Yomiuri Symphony Orchestra was giving a concert in the main hall on the floor above.
The next day’s newspapers carried the announcement from the orchestra: ‘We are sorry for the trouble last night in listening to our concert because of the noise from the basement hall. We wish to express our heartfelt apology.’ Later the hall was renovated in order to reinforce the soundproofing. After that I became known as the Monster Drummer.
As our group became more successful, I began living a life of doing whatever I pleased. I traveled all over Japan, gadding about with friends whenever I wanted. By now I was married. But I had little concern for my wife, Yukiko, who was a percussionist in The Ladies’ Orchestra.
I was not happy. I was jealous of any rival drummer, and my frustration grew as my popularity and income fell short of my ideal. A feeling of emptiness stirred within me. I would ask my companions: “What’s the point in working, drinking, and going on sprees like this?”
“Don’t bother yourself with such foolish thinking,” they would reply. “What counts is pleasure.” Pursuing a pleasure-oriented life, however, led to my being hospitalized with liver trouble in the summer of 1972. Experiencing severe nausea and weakness, I feared dying. ‘Even if I have to give up drumming,’ I thought to myself, ‘I want to live!’
At the time, my wife was on tour with her orchestra. She finally returned and saw how sick I was, which led to her quitting the job. She had just started studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and as I appreciated her care so much, I consented to her continuing her study. I recovered steadily and, after three months of recuperation, joined our musical group again. We appeared on television and radio from time to time, and our audiences and income both increased.
Success in Europe
In 1973 we made our first concert tour to Europe. On the first day, we played at the Mörs Jazz Festival in Germany. When we finished, there was a hushed moment, then a storm of applause. The festival sponsor asked: “Hey, everybody! Do you want this group to come again next year?” The audience replied with more applause. The next day a newspaper carried my picture with the bold-type heading: “Kamikaze Drummer From Japan.”
The following year our fee and requests for performances increased. We played at the Berlin Jazz Festival, Donaveschingen Modern Music Festival, Heidelberg Jazz Festival, Ljubljana Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival, and so forth. Audiences demanded encores again and again, and at some festivals, police lined up in front of the stage to protect us from admirers. Yes, I was now a highly successful drummer, even surpassing my childhood dreams.
My Wife’s Example
My wife’s involvement in music had not bothered me at all, but now the thought of her being away for Christian meetings and preaching upset me terribly. I thought: ‘Those who rely on religion are weak. Religion is a racket capitalizing on the weak.’ Although I did all I could to talk her out of her new religion, she refused to quit.
Once she followed me on one of my drinking escapades, sitting quietly beside me at a bar. Infuriated, I dashed whiskey on her. “Get lost!” I said. Calmly she wiped her hair and clothes with a handkerchief, acting as if nothing had happened. The bartender and customers gave me accusing looks. I kept drinking till I passed out, after which she took me home.
Another night I forced her out of our apartment, locked the door, and secured it with the door chain. Instead of going away, she unlocked the door, obtained a hacksaw, and started sawing the chain. The sound echoed through the building where people were sleeping. I had to let her in.
In desperation I regularly got drunk. I thought I might as well die. On the other hand, my wife did not get upset nor did she fear my harassment. As I watched television in the evenings, she would beg me to listen as she read the book From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained. She would read to me every night. My reaction gradually changed from “Be quiet!” to “Keep on reading.”
She also slipped the Watchtower and Awake! magazines into my suitcase when I went on concert tours. My curiosity overcame my fear of being converted, and I started reading first-person accounts in the magazines about those who adopted the way of Christianity. Often I ended up wiping tears from my eyes, although I felt that I shouldn’t be carried along by such stories.
One night I felt unusually calm and decided to put myself in my wife’s position. I asked myself: ‘What’s wrong with her studying the Bible? What do I have to offer her that could replace the Bible?’ The next day I put her to the test. “Give up the Bible altogether, or we will be divorced,” I challenged.
After a long silence, she said, with tears in her eyes: “I am not going to be divorced. Neither will I quit my Bible study.”
Relieved, I replied: “I will stop opposing you.”
Soon after this, I accompanied my wife to a meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But I still didn’t let down my guard. Yet, the good conduct of the children and the reasonableness of what was taught impressed me. I continued attending meetings and gradually my guard against the Witnesses lowered. I began to realize vaguely that the solution to my feelings of emptiness might be found in the Bible. But as my realization deepened, I could also see that if I did study the Bible, I would need to make changes in my life.
Struggle Within Myself
Thus started an inner struggle. Even though I knew what was right, I could not put it into practice. I was tormented by desires to smoke and commit immorality. But I did not want to give in to those desires anymore. (Romans 7:18-24) To strengthen myself, I attended Christian meetings as often as possible.—Hebrews 10:23-25.
The meetings began to influence my thinking. Glory, wealth, and worldly pleasures no longer seemed worth while. I could clearly see worldly desires as enemies. As I walked home from the Kingdom Hall, I felt a peace of mind that I had never before experienced. For the first time, I was able to say, “I am happy.”
Leaving the Group
In 1975, right after asking for a Bible study, I took off for our fourth concert tour to Europe. Just as before, audiences applauded wildly. My heart, however, did not glow as before. Even though the sponsor again said, “Please come back next year,” I had made up my mind to leave the group.
Back in Tokyo I immediately resumed my Bible study, and soon afterward started telling others about the genuine happiness I was enjoying. On my last domestic concert tour, I felt the urge to share my new hope with one of our sponsors to whom I had always felt a special closeness. I prayed to Jehovah to give me an opportunity to speak to him. But how would I start the conversation?
“What comes to your mind when you hear the word happiness?” I asked.
“I imagine conditions where sickness and death have been wiped away, and everybody dwells together in peace,” he replied. I was delighted with this ideal response and told him right away: “That is why I am leaving this group.” As I continued to talk, Jehovah kept making the seed in his heart grow. He later became the first baptized witness of Jehovah in his locality. The joy from this experience was deep and long lasting, far surpassing the joy I had experienced from beating drums.
Enjoying Genuine Happiness
After I left the group, a man told a Witness who visited him: “You people killed Moriyama.” True, Moriyama the jazz drummer died, but Moriyama the Christian minister was born. I was baptized in June 1976 in symbol of my dedication to Jehovah.
In 1979 my wife and I began serving as full-time pioneer ministers. Since then we have experienced the joy of helping a number of people to find genuine happiness. I have also had the privilege of serving as an elder in congregations in Tokyo and Nagoya.
When I was young, I thought happiness was bound up with drums. Although I still play drums from time to time, I have found that genuine happiness comes, not in pursuing a musical career, but in serving the Creator, Jehovah. My whole life is now centered around my hope of enjoying genuine happiness forever on a paradise earth with my wife and our daughter, Saori, who was born two years ago.—As told by Takeo Moriyama.
[Picture on page 26]
My wife (with our daughter Saori) and I look forward to enjoying genuine happiness forever on a paradise earth