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Ōtsuzumi (大鼓)

The percussion instrument used by the ōtsuzumikata, literally “large drum.” The characters may also be read as ōkawa. The top and bottom drum faces, made of horse leather, are connected with a hemp cord called shirabeo on each end of the thin, hourglass-shaped body. The shape is similar to the kotsuzumi (“small drum”) – the ōtsuzumi is simply larger. The ostsuzumi is placed on the left knee with the shirabeo held in the left hand, and sound is produced by beating the drum face with the right hand. Before the performance, the leather is dried over a charcoal fire and the shirabeo pulled taut, then pulled even more taut with a cord known as a koshime, giving the drum its characteristic hard and strong sound, with the sound quality further adjustable depending on how hard it is beaten. To protect the right hand used to beat the drum, a finger covering known as a yubikawa made from Japanese paper may be worn, or an object on the palm may also be used to enhance the sound. Many of the bodies are painted with the maki-e technique, and on the undersides can often be seen the kanname, a term for the remnants of the carving of the inside of the drum. As the kanname are unique to the individual craftsmen, they are also used in appraising old drums. Current kotsuzumi schools include the Ishii, Ōkura, Kadono, Kanze and Takayasu schools.

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