I was sitting at Denny’s restaurant this morning, surfing the ‘net and checking Facebook to see what was crawling across the screen.
When I saw this odd post, I stopped crawling:
Hmmm… that seemed really weird. I mean, really weird. Yamaha is discontinuing one of the most famous line of drum products EVER?
A little more morning browsing, and then I stumbled across this:
Okay… so who is Sakae? I followed the link, and the first post made very immediate sense: Yamaha’s drummaker was essentially calling it quits with Yamaha. Which is huge.
Not unlike like when Leo Fender sold his company to CBS Instruments and went on to make his own line of guitars.
Which was huge.
I looked closely at the publication date of the story and noticed that it said April 1, 2013… and I thought, “Oh those wacky guys at DRUM! magazine, up to percussive mischief yet again…”
And then I went to the Sakae site and read this letter, which I am reprinting in full…
The Sakae Story
A Letter from the Desk of Eizo Nakata
Many people on the inside of the drum industry are aware of my family business, but for most drummers the name Sakae is completely new. Because of this I would like to explain a little further the history of my family business, Sakae Rhythm/Sakae Drums.
Sakae was founded in 1925 by my grandfather in Osaka, Japan. Up until the late 60’s we made several percussion instruments for the Japanese school market. We spent many years developing our unique way of making drums and creating our own musical voice in the world of percussion. Because of this success, we eventually drew the attention of Yamaha who approached my father to consider a partnership in making drums for them. So, from 1967 until now Sakae has been the primary OEM source of all Yamaha high-end drums. This is something my family is very proud of and for over 40 years we have remained exclusive to Yamaha.
One thing is for certain and that is change. Recently I became the third generation to be handed the reins of this proud family business. My whole life I have been groomed to understand and respect the importance of our drum traditions, artists, history and honor. I grew up with legends like Elvin Jones, Roy Haynes, Steve Gadd, Peter Erskine, Ndugu Chancler, Charley Drayton etc. all contributing to my nurturing and training. It is upon me that my family has now laid the responsibility to carry on this excellence and tradition to making the instrument we call the drums. Equipped with this task I now find it necessary to have the Sakae brand stand on its own and come out from behind the shadow of Yamaha.
In these difficult and uncertain economic times I realize the decision to independently build the Sakae brand is one most would see as risky. However; Sakae is not just another drum company. My family and I are committed to the traditions of making instruments of the utmost quality and excellence. Corporatism and the desire to become the biggest drum company in the world are NOT our priorities. What IS our priority is making musical instruments that my father, grandfather and the legendary artists I have grown up with, would all be proud of. Bringing honor to their names, hard work and music is the driving force behind each and every morning I wake. With this passion underneath all that I do, the decision to go alone was obvious and the only conclusion. There was no other way to pursue the ground breaking advancements we wanted. I believe you will agree when you hear our new instruments.
I understand that for most in the drumming world the name Sakae may be unfamiliar, but the sound of Sakae is not. We believe we have taken that great and well-respected sound to a new level and would love to have you give them a listen. The world doesn’t need another drum company, but the world DOES need to hold onto the Sakae sound that has been so instrumental in the music we have heard for the past 40 plus years. Please give Sakae a listen, check out our site and ask your favorite drum shop if they carry the brand. We would love to make the name Sakae as popular to the world as the Sakae sound you have come to know and love.
I hope to meet you all some day and hope that Sakae will be your choice for a musical voice in the near future.
Sincerely, Eizo Nakata President Sakae Drums
The first part of the letter that caught my initial attention was this:
“Corporatism and the desire to become the biggest drum company in the world are NOT our priorities.”
It takes guts the size of Jupiter to step away from THE giant and say, “Mmmm, kinda done with the suit and tie, let’s get back to jeans and tee shirts. Oh, and let’s severe one of the largest financial ties ever known to drumming.”
I had never heard of Eizo Nakata until today, but where he really got my attention was with this: “What IS our priority is making musical instruments that my father, grandfather and the legendary artists I have grown up with, would all be proud of. Bringing honor to their names, hard work and music is the driving force behind each and every morning I wake.”
Folks, the Japanese take honor and tradition about as seriously as it can be taken. The samuri code of bushido, the “Way of the Warrior,” defines a man’s life quite unlike just about nothing we have in the Western world. When a samuri would challenge another on the field of battle, it was tradition to recite one’s lineage and accomplishments. Yamaha did not really have a prospering drum division until they connected with Sakae in the mid 1960’s, and the rest has been drum manufacturing history.
So where will this leave Yamaha Drums now?
That’s going to be the multi-million dollar question. It is certainly newsworthy and profoundly earth-shaking to read that Yamaha will be DISCONTUNING its legendary Recording Custom Series, along with so many other lines.
What will happen to their quality? What happened to Gretsch when Jasper Furniture stopped making shells? Will Yamaha drum artists jump ship and sail with a smaller ship called Sakae?
I always root for the little guy and the underdog. They have grit, guts, and teeth. Eizo Nakata has invoked the ghosts of his past to infuse the spirits of his company’s future. He has a vision and certainly an incredible amount of faith that a small company can continue the legendary sound that overshadowed most American drum companies for decades.
I read a quote that kind of sums up what Sakea Rhythm may have on their minds, and it’s worth repeating here: “Your are wise to climb Fuji once and a fool to climb it twice.”
Then again, less than one percent of Japan’s population has accomplished that feat. You might say that Yamaha was the oxygen that made Sakae’s initial climb possible, but as Sakae makes their second ascent, I wonder if Mitsuru Umemura, President and Representative Director of Yamaha Corporation, looks at Mt. Fuji with the same glint in his eye that Eizo Nakata surely has every morning…