We have a huge week coming up! First of all The World Taiko Gathering (WTG) is about to start! For those of you that aren’t taiko nuts the WTG is a global gathering of taiko players for performances, workshops and networking. Maz, Kris and I will all be leading workshops at the Gathering and Maz and I will be performing at the event’s culmination Taiko Nation Concerts on Saturday and Sunday.
Taiko Nation Concerts
Saturday, July 19 8:00pm
Sunday, July 20th 2:00pm & 7:00pm
Japanese American Community and Cultural Center
244 S. San Pedro Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
After the World Taiko Gathering we’ll be performing with Kaoru Watanabe, Chieko Kojima, Patrick Graham and Kenny Endo at Descanso Gardens for their World Rhythms Series. The performance is FREE (with admission to the Gardens)! It’s outdoors in the garden’s main lawn and a great event to bring a picnic and your kids to!
We had a great weekend at the World Taiko Festival. Or I should say Kris and I had a great weekend and Maz almost killed himself from overwork and exhaustion. I’d like to personally thank Bryan Yamami, Masato Baba, David Wells, Courtney Deguchi, Tomomi Hongo, Jen Baik, Jenny Maki Mimura, Brian Yamagata, Darren Endo, Yumi Saito, Elizabeth Ishida, Andrew ‘Chensy’ Chen, Keiko Harada, Doug Sakamoto, Kelvin Lee, Blaine O’Brien, Rachel Mock, Audrey Tu, Janelle You, Dan Porter and all of the WTG volunteers for all of their work and dedication to putting together an amazing weekend of taiko magic. Also thank you Lucas for coining the best taiko word ever.
I’d also like to thank Jason, Emily, Dana, Alexa, Donny, Tiana, Jenny, Tomomi, Jen, Maz, David, Blaine, Lisa Margie, Helen and Stacey for joining me in the massive Lion Chant that was performed to launch kaDON! I’ll be posting more about kaDON soon but in case you are interested head over to the website and see what it’s about.
Besides launching a new online taiko teaching venture I taught two workshops, was a panelist for a discussion session and performed at the opening ceremony and gave a speech at the closing session. My first workshop was for the youth program on “Imagination and Improvisation” and the other for one of the core concepts of Lion Chant. I was very happy with both workshops as I’m think I’ve finally found a way of teaching improvisation in a workshop that will give students the tools needed for improvisation. The Lion Chant workshop I was also very happy with as I’m finally starting to find ways to work within the context of a 2.5 hour workshop to teach something substantial with some depth. Part of this ties into the launching of kaDON as I feel freed from just teaching a line or a section of a song and can instead focus on a deeper understanding of the core concepts of a piece in the short time we have in a workshop.
I also performed in the three Taiko Nation concerts. I had a small part but it was just an honor to be a part of such a great concert. I’m really having fun playing more straight kumidaiko again and am fully inspired to explore more possibilities within a kumidaiko context.
However the absolute best part of of the World Taiko Gathering was seeing old friends and meeting new friends from around the world. Michelle and Isabel both said something at the closing ceremony that has stuck with me they both said to remember taiko is about people and the more I progress in this art form the more I see this is true. It really is about people and the wonderful connection we share because of this drum. The taiko community real is a special place.
World Taiko Gathering was wonderful! TaikoProject was remarkably well-organized and the incredibly varied events ran like clockwork. All this despite the logistical challenge of drum movements, navigating workshop locations spread throughout Little Tokyo, and TaikoProject’s involvement in three high-production performances over the weekend. Incredible.
I taught two workshops, moderated a discussion session, and hosted a Matsuri Crashers Battle. All three were a blast. The weekend was so fun I felt guilty to be indulging in music-making and taiko conversation while I knew TP members were bustling around behind the scenes.
From all of us in the world taiko community, thank you Bryan, Maz, David, Jen, Courtney, Tomomi, Darren, Yumi, Brian, Jenny, Liz, Andrew, Keiko, Doug, Dan, Blaine … argh, I’m forgetting so many!… and the other dozens of TP folks and volunteers who put World Taiko Gathering together. Thank you, thank you!
After Japan, I spent a week in Devon, England, with Kagemusha and the 230+ other attendees of the UK Taiko Festival. I was invited to teach workshops and perform and I stayed with Jonathan, Gabriel, and Oliver Kirby. The trip was profoundly moving, and included the most incredible performance opportunity I’ve ever been given.
First off, Kagemusha Taiko is full of wonderful people, and the UK Taiko Festival has the same loving, creative, encouraging atmosphere of the taiko communities in the US. The Festival was held at Kagemusha’s home at Hannah’s at Seale Hayne, a retired university campus that has been converted into a facility for youth programs and artists. It’s an amazingly beautiful place and the perfect setting for a taiko conference. Dorms and fun cafes and pubs allowed the attendees to stay on campus so there were lots of opportunities to meet new people.
One of the highlights for me was working with Mizuho Zako, of Oedo Sukeroku. She has a really compelling naname style, with moments of striking stability and graceful movement. She, Masashi Itohara, and I did a simple trading-solos piece in one of the concerts. The end-result wasn’t anything groundbreaking but it was nice to finally be able to pull something like that together with great players in a short, 40-minute rehearsal. I’m getting better!
I taught four workshops and they were a joy. I debuted my new piece, Radiddlepa, in my “30 Days to Better Shime” workshop. I made all sorts of mistakes (in fact, the head of my mallet popped off at the climax of the piece!) but the attendees were very supportive. Caroline, one of the Kagemusha members, approached me after the workshop and asked gently, “This is maybe a weird thing to ask, but would you play that again for the Kagemusha members and volunteers at the end of the festival?” I happily agreed, and that performance turned out to be the most moving performance setting I’ve ever had.
The Kagemusha members and volunteers gathered in the Kagemusha studio, a nice-sounding space where I’d been practicing Radiddlepa for hours during the lead-up to the Festival. The late-afternoon sun was streaming through the windows as the members sat down on the floor. I could tell many of them were sitting for the first time all day. There was a sense of relief and pride that the Festival had been such a grand success. Everyone was tired but happy.
Jonathan thanked everyone for their hard work and recognized the heroic efforts of the drum coordinators. I gave a short speech about what an incredible experience I’d had; that the months of prep and the Festival itself had had a lasting impact on me as a player. It will stand out as a critical moment in my career. I told them how honored I was to have been invited and how close I felt to them as friends and fellow students of taiko.
It was in this air of love and relief that I got to perform Radiddlepa. My playing was much more fluid than in the workshop. I didn’t have any bachi malfunctions. I was nervous but it felt wonderful.
When the piece ended there was a long pause. I felt deeply relieved to be through the piece. It was like I sat down for the first time too. When the attendees started clapping, I looked up to find a number of the members crying. The applause died out but no one said anything. There was a quiet “Wow…” and we all laughed a bit because we didn’t know what to say.
I’m almost crying again as I write this. It was so incredibly rewarding… to have struggled through that 10 months of composition, to finally have the piece ready so I could answer “yes” to Caroline’s invitation, to be able to offer the piece at that special moment at the conclusion of a wonderfully successful Festival, and then to have those people appreciate and love me for it. It was a profound experience that I will never forget.
I’ve just returned from a wonderful time in Tokyo and Kumamoto, Japan, followed by my first trip to England. The trip was amazing; the culmination of months of shamisen and taiko practice and preparation.
My main goal in Japan was shamisen study. After a quick check-in lesson with my shamisen teacher, I took a lesson with the great tsuzumi player, Katada Shinjyuuro. I’m working on a piece called Shima no Senzai which is a duet for tsuzumi and shamisen. The lesson with Shinjyuuro provided an experienced drummer’s input on how to play in a way that makes the tsuzumi part easy and fun. My long-term goal is to be able to perform this piece with Kenny, Shoji, or Yuta and I feel like I’m making my way toward being ready.
Thank you to Kineya Katsuyukie, her students, Shinjyuuro Sensei, and Hiroka for all your help making this lesson happen!
Come see us perform at the Skirball Cultural Center this Saturday July 12th! The performance are at 12:00pm and 2:00pm and are free with museum membership. While you are at the Skirball check out their Noah’s Ark exhibit which is awesome especially for families!