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  • Inanna Festival Report

    Japanese here !

    Women's retreat 'Inanna Festival'
    Yotsuya Kumin Center (Shinjuku, Tokyo)

    Spring equinox

    March 20, 2008

    The first “Inanna Festival” was held on March 20, 2008 with a spectacular event urging women to “wake up the DNA of their inner goddess” and proclaiming, “Every woman is a goddess.” On arriving at the event room, all the participants changed their clothes into very colorful belly dancer costumes. The festival started with an ancient rhythm of the spring or autumn equinox and then proceeded to demonstrations of frame drums, darbuka drums and belly dancing, led respectively by Haruhi Taniguchi, Takako Nomiyama and Akiko Takada, as well as short performances by these artists and their students.

    When the event was well under way, it was time for the participants themselves to transform into “goddesses.” Following a brief warm-up exercise, workshops of frame drums, darbuka drums and belly dancing were held, and each goddess picked the art she liked best. And after learning a simple traditional Arab rhythm, they performed it all together in a recital that culminated in an exhilaration of singing and dancing. The event had reached its climax.

    Japan Frame Drum Association organized women's retreat 'Inanna Festival' on 20 March 2008 featuring Akiko Takada(Belly Dance), Takako Nomiya(Darbuka) and Haruhi Taniguchi(Frame Drum).


    Group photo with participants. Cheese!
    I am planning to hold the Inanna Festival twice a year.


    For Inanna Fest.

    This is what I wrote online in my diary on my Mixi site (similar to Facebook) from Feb. 28 to March 8, 2008 about the first Inanna Festival. But I did not think my purpose could be fulfilled by just a one-time event of this kind. Therefore, I am planning to continue this event every year in order to attain my ultimate goal, discussed below.

    I am wishing to reach out broadly to the people who share my hopes for this event, and also find the people who give me a hand as event sponsors. It’s my sincere wish for as many women as possible to become goddesses, both inside and outside Japan. It would be most exciting if I could share my thoughts and feelings with a lot of people, using the occasion of this Inanna Festival.


    ●No 1

    Inanna ? I use this as my nickname on the Mixi site. It is the name of Mother Earth. You can find this name in ancient documents of Sumer, the world’s oldest civilization. In other words, it is the name of the general superintendent of goddesses. Why did I take this name? The reason is related to a well-known myth of Inanna’s descent into the underworld. It states that frame drums were played to call Inanna back from the underworld, and the myth also includes a description of a frame drum.*akesH But the accuracy of the story is not so certain because the documents were very old, and only a limited number clay tablets have been found on which the story is written. Besides, deciphering Sumerian is no-doubt painstaking.

    Still, many ancient goddess statues excavated in the Mediterranean region have frame drums in their hands.

    The goddess, a woman, is to deliver the whole universe, which means the sound of a frame drum symbolizes the origin of all kinds of sound. What a grand drama evolves here!

    As such, I came to believe that Inanna, the general superintendent of all goddesses, is a goddess of frame drums, and I set her as my own guardian by naming myself with that same name on my Mixi site. Currently I am even thinking of discarding my actual first name and taking Inanna as my real first name.

    [*]This same story developed into a similar story in Greek culture, where ? if my memory is right ? Demeter, the goddess of crops and Mother Earth, descends into the underworld searching for her daughter, Persephone, who was abducted by Hades, the god of the underworld, who forced her to become his wife.


    I remember the moment when I saw a frame drum for the first time. Some chills of shock went through my body. I don’t know why, but I definitely felt, “I have to play this instrument.” It was such a special sensation as if I was struck by lightning. Since then, my destiny has been evolving at a brisk pace. While staring with amazement, I made friends with a lot of frame drummers around the world, and now I am acknowledged worldwide as having “frame drum fever.” Well, let’s put this subject aside for a while.

    In fact, when I learned that frame drums were originally played by female oracles in the olden days, I suddenly realized why I received a “call” from this drum and why I was so strongly impressed by this drum. The frame drum liberated me and connected all the fragmented pieces of my life.

    My encounter with Inanna followed immediately. It is said that society in ancient times used to be matrilineal. In Turkey, there are some extensive Bronze Age remains at a site called ≪atalh?y,k in the Anatolia region. These remains are also very old, and their excavation continues. What is surprising about these remains is that there are no traces of wars or fighting there. Instead, a number of goddesses of rich crops were discovered. Well, society will remain peaceful if people leave it to women!

    When I think about myself, I feel I have lived long enough. Layne Redmond, a renowned female frame drummer, also said in an online interview (http://framedrum-japan.org/layneredmond-interview.htm) that it’s time for her to commit to conveying what she has achieved in her life to the younger generation. I cannot be daring enough like her to convey something to the younger generation, but I feel I have reached the age to bear the role of sending out what I have been thinking, feeling and experiencing in my life, by converting them into some physical form. What changed my life … that is the frame drum, the same drum that has ancient roots as a musical instrument used by female oracles. My thoughts have led me to realize that there is a goddess symbolized by Inanna, and there used to be a peaceful matrilineal society in the past.

    How do those elements collaboratively work out? And what part of old wisdom can be used in this modern society? I have been meditating on this issue for some time.


    Working and child-rearing are both big issues for women. In our current aging society, young people in their 20s and 30s are still full of physical energy. They are occupied with desires to do this or that … there are too many things they want to do … but in reality, once a woman has a child, her sphere of activity becomes limited. Although she may want to return to her former position in the workplace after child-bearing, her place will already be taken by somebody else. It is impossible for her to go with her children to concerts of her favorite musicians. It is out of question to go to the movies with children. All a young mother can go to is a cheap, poorly organized event for children … It is no wonder that her mind and spirit end up getting eroded.

    Why do women have to be isolated from society once they have a child? At my age, I can argue that everyone should have a broad mind to accept more, to produce a more generous society. Something is wrong with this modern society. It is true that there used to be a lot of nagging middle-aged men and women in town who casually told off children when they did not behave or were too mischievous ? even children unrelated to them. And in earlier society, the opinions of elders were respected a lot more. Then, extending back even further, there once was an era in which children were treasured as people heralding the next generation, and children were raised by the whole society. Why don’t you think about the wisdom of those eras? My encounter with frame drums has brought me now to think about our actual social system.

    ●No. 4

    While all of these things have been going on, women have started losing their own sense of self. They are usually just recognized as the mother of little So-and-so, or as the wife of Mr. So-and-so. When you are reminded of the question “What did I really want to do?” ? then you have already passed the halfway point in your life. Suddenly you get shocked looking at your own face reflected in the mirror. No, no, no! You do not have to give up your life as such. Your real life has just started.

    Women are beings to create the whole universe, the ones who have power to accept everything and make the world at peace. You are the people who can share what you have and exchange blessings with one another. You are the ones who can love everything. Yes, you are goddesses! Let’s realize the essence you have within and liberate it! Let’s appreciate that you were born as women and celebrate your own femininity. Then the masculine society will surely change as well.

    Women have been assessed so far by the masculine standard. Don’t you think even women’s beauty is being judged solely by men’s preference? I think everyone’s taste should be appreciated. You do not have to compare your beauty with others or compete against each other. All you need is just the courage to step forward in the direction you want, and admit and cherish that way, each appreciating the other.

    All these thoughts came to fruition for me, and I decided to put them into action in a special event and send it out to others. That is the Inanna Festival.

    ●No. 5

    In selecting people to perform and lead participants at the event, I already had a plan in mind. I was thinking of asking Akiko Kanda and Takako Nomiya for help. The reason is as follows: When I watched a belly dance for the first time, I intuitively realized that the dance is for women themselves, to celebrate being a woman. Because of the belly dancers’ scanty costume, they give people the impression that it is a dance of enticement, but that is not true. Look at the dancers’ smooth and resilient movements. Belly dancers’ bodies are singing out the joy of being women, aren’t they?

    It is an art form that certainly has a long history. Arab rhythms are so often supporting and accompanying the belly dance. It is said that the Arab countries are goldmines of rhythms. I sense that each rhythm should have a special meaning: a rhythm for child-bearing, for weddings, for funerals and for conversing with gods perhaps. I guess there should be some rhythms that connect the heavens and earth with human beings. There should be rhythms for cheering up the soul and for soothing grief. Without doubt, the belly dance must be a dance for goddesses, with its Arab rhythms. I felt that in my bones.

    Both Akiko and Takako are wonderful artists, and at the same time devoted mothers. I gave them my enthusiastic invitation. They immediately assented. Once these two important artists accepted my offer, the event seemed already sure of success.

    All I had to do then was just pour out the participants’ power into the event.

    Let’s make the upcoming event even livelier!

    This is a participatory Spring Equinox event. It’s a ceremonial festival. While wearing makeup and changing into special costumes, adults and children both enjoy singing, dancing and drumming.

    This is the equivalent of the Japanese Bon dance. Although I would like to make it a female festival, those men who share my concept of the event are also welcome. If women change, then men will change as well! Bring your children. They are also very welcome. Show them your transformation: Wearing makeup, moms are dancing in colorful costumes. Show them your extraordinary features. You can wear special makeup and participate in short workshops of belly dancing and drumming.

    Beginners also welcome. Let’s enjoy this Spring Equinox event together.