Haru Ga Kita
Spring Has Come
Haru Ga Kita (Spring Has Come) is a Japanese shôka (“school songs” used to introduce Western music). Tatsuyuki Takano wrote the text and Têichi Okano composed the melody in 1910. This song is special to me because as a child, I remember learning Haru Ga Kita to perform for my school’s May Day performance. We borrowed aloha shirts from our fathers to wear as yukatas (summer kimonos) and danced in a big circle around the basketball court.
Learning the song
Sing the song once for the students in Japanese and explain the meaning of the lyrics. Let students watch videos of Bon-Odori Dances held during the Obon Festival (traditional festival to celebrate one’s ancestors). Tanko Bushi (a dance about the coal-miners) or Sakura Ondo (a dance about the beauty of the cherry blossoms in the spring).
Ask students for movements that reflect the text of the song. Sing the song for the students while students incorporate their created movements at least four times. Teach the students the song phrase by phrase. Note: I have done this both as one dance in a big circle (similar to the Japanese Bon-Odori Dance), and the class comes up with the movements but I have also split the students up into groups and assigned them a verse. Each group creates movements to reflect the text of their assigned verse and then shares their dance with the class.
A traditional form of Japanese music, taiko requires the use of various sized drums to produce multi-part pieces and are commonly seen at community events and celebrations. In essence, the teacher will use kuchi shōga (phonetic system where each sound that is produced by an instrument is assigned a syllable) for students to echo and practice the movements before moving on to the drums. I use different-sized hand drums as a substitute for the taiko drums and rhythm sticks to produce the sound.
Explain to students that in Japanese drumming, musicians have to learn “Kuchi shōga” or music words that direct their movements. Here are some examples (Ready Set Kadon Kuchi Shoga, Odaiko Drill, Syllable Reference Chart).
For this activity, I kept the ostinato simple but feel free to add more challenging patterns for your more advanced students.
- First, while students are sitting crisscross, exhibit the “don” motion, which is the same value as a half note. Instruct students to echo you and tap the top of their thighs. Please visit this video.
- Next, “do” (same value as a quarter note) can be tapped on knees. Have students echo various patterns such as:
- Finally, “ka” is tapped on the sides of the thighs and it has the same note value as “do.”
- Here is the rhythmic pattern I created for “Haru Ga Kita.”
- Always start with the right hand. The order of hands are as follows: Right, left, right, both hands (for side of the drum), right, and both hands.
- Pass out a large and small hand drum for students to try. One person should stand in a lunge position and hold the smaller hand drum on top of the bigger drum in front of their body. The other person with the rhythms sticks should also stand in a lunge position facing the drum person.
- Using rhythms sticks, “don” should be played in the middle of the big drum, “do” in the middle of the smaller drum and “ka” on the sides/rim of either drum. Please watch this video for more details.
Putting it all together
When students are comfortable with the ostinato pattern, split the class in half. Half of the students can play the ostinato pattern on the drums and the other half can sing the song with the created movements. Ganbatte! (Do your best!)
Click here to download the notation for Haru Ga Kita.