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November 11, 2019 04:21 PM

Korg Supports Survival of Sakae Drums

Korg announced launch of SAKAE OSAKA HERITAGE PROJECT BY KORG, a revival plan of Osaka-based legendary drum brand at 2019 NAMM Show. The company showcased cajons and kick pedals as the first lines this fall. Japan Music Trades interviewed with Norio Iwasaki and Shunsaku Tsuji, a driving force of Korg/Drums Project. (photo right: from r. to l., Norio Iwasaki, Shunsaku Tsuji, Masaaki Tawada and Michihiro Tsuchida.)

Established in 1925, Sakae Rhythm Gakki was an well-established drums and educational percussion instruments manufacturer in Osaka. For more than 40 years the company had provided world-renowned top brands with drums. In 2009 it ventured into original products manufacturing, and launched drum products under SAKAE Drums. Their expressive sound and high standard of quality instantly won acclaim of Japanese and overseas artists.

In 2017, however, the company ceased operation because of financial difficulty and the SAKAE brand went on the verge of extinction. In 2014, KORG Inc., former domestic distributor of SAKAE Drums took over the trade name and in 2019 launched SAKAE OSAKA HERITAGE PROJECT BY KORG.

Norio Iwasaki says, “Sakae is a legendary maker having over 90 years of history, and has substantial manufacturing know how providing world’s top drum makers with drums in their brands. We didn’t want to see the established brand disappears from the industry. But Korg is an amateur in terms of drum manufacturing. We needed the hands of technical experts of old factory of Sakae. We were lucky to have the present staff joined us. At this moment the project bears the name of Korg, but it’s absolutely the story of Sakae.”

The revival project could have taken off in Tokyo, however, they opened an office in Yodogawa-ku, Osaka, as a tribute to Sakae’s origin and its proud history. Four people are now engaged in management and production of new Sakae products.

Iwasaki explains about manufacturing concept of revived Sakae drums, “We understand that we succeed production of legendary drums. That means we seek innovation in every aspect from shell and parts making to finishes while maintaining high standard of quality of the original products. It’s not simply designing high quality drums. The new Sakae drums should sound perfect in ensemble. Sound making determines tonal characteristics of drums, which can deliver sound well coordinated in session play and performing environment. It takes us long hours and efforts to polish new drums to the level that can satisfy musicians, but we never compromise to accomplish our goal.”

A host of drummers appraised such attitudes and continued to play Sakae instruments. After Sakae ceased operation, Tsuji volunteered to provide over 100 Sakae artists with technical support and maintaining services for nearly 2 years.

The project launched this fall multiple type cajons CAJ-100 and CAJ-100W using thinner plywood materials for increasingly resonant sound as well as Axelandor Single/Double light weight and agile kick pedals. With many new innovative ideas packed, the first lines are attracting attention of music retailers. It’s notable that the cajons follow the same design concept and features of the original models, which Sakae launched right before the closure 2 years ago, and production discontinued shortly.
A new snare drum will be unveiled at the coming NAMM Show, and professional new models and hardware will follow.

About the marketing of new Sakae lines Iwasaki says, “The original products were well received in the Japanese market. We plan to promote their tonal characteristics and high standard of quality. In terms of the global distribution, the drum manufacturers including us seek larger presence and success in the U.S. The Sakae products haven’t yet established themselves there, but we see we have great opportunities and untapped market ahead. Our plan is to increase exposure of Sakae brand in the U.S. market with extensive artists relations and promotional activities.”

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