I had a great weekend leading a taiko intensive for Ho Etsu Taiko. Ho Etsu Taiko originally started as a youth group with the Midwest Buddhist Temple. Four years ago they opened their membership to those outside of the temple and have become one of the most active and creative taiko ensembles in the Chicago area. They perform throughout the midwest and have worked with professional taiko players like Nagata Shachu and Tiffany Tamaribuchi and seek out collaborations with other artists in their area like noted Irish singer Paddy Homan. Here’s a link to a Chicago Tribune article about Ho Etsu Taiko, their recent collaboration with Paddy Homan and their temple’s attempts at reaching out to the surrounding communities.
In preparing for the intensive I had the group leader Jason send me videos and recordings of their recent work and was impressed with the quality of their recent work. When a group asks me to come in and work with them it’s important for me to try to get a sense of the character of the group and what they are trying to do musically and artistically. My goal is to help them become better versions of themselves and give them tools and techniques that they can use on their own to continue their artistic progress as a group. We exchanged several emails and had a face to face meeting to further understand where they are, where they want to go and come up with a set of focal points for our time together.
When working with a group on an in depth basis I like to use pieces that they already play so that it’s more clear how they can implement different concepts that I introduce. I have found that this is much more effective than just teaching them a new drill. I’ve worked with groups in the past to improve their basic kata with a new drill and it will look great while playing the drill, playing relaxed and powerful but the moment they go back to playing the songs they are used to it just goes back to the way they were playing before. I’ve realized that it’s helpful to introduce basic concepts in a way that is more applicable right away.
Using two pieces from the groups repertoire I worked with them to improve their betta and naname basics, stage presence, listening and timing and worked with the composer of the pieces to flush out their pieces with different compositional techniques and approaches. I also taught them parts of a new composition of mine called Lion Chant and invited them to perform the piece as a part of a big multi group performance at the opening of the World Taiko Gathering. We got a lot done over the weekend and I’d like to thank Jason, Ryan, Donny, Dana, Tiana, Lannie, Emily and Alexa for all of their hard work and for taking such great care of me while in Chicago.
Shoji Kameda is a Grammy nominated musician, composer and producer and a leading creative force in the taiko world. If you are interested in bringing him out to work with your group contact him at: shoji(at)onensemble.org.