What is it about taiko? is it the drums themselves? maybe the rhythms? or the power? the movement? the community created in a room of strangers trying to achieve something in unison? the freedom to shout when anywhere else we need to be polite? the endorphins that come with continuous physical activity? why not come and see for yourself?
17 performances which varied from playing for the Swansea Half Marathon runners, to appearing on Welsh TV teaching Rugby players to play taiko, to the relaunch of a Japanese Garden in front of the Japanese ambassador, to rugby stadium gigs and the Chinese New Years celebration. Workshops and demonstrations in local schools and kids clubs. Our Taiko life is always fun and exciting.
All those gigs enabled us to continue studying taiko and this year we had amazing teachers: Ingmar Kikat taught us that we can dance when we drum. Kenny Endo opened our eyes to the classical aspects of taiko.
Ting-Chi Li continued to guide us on the way of playing taiko in the slanted position
And all that can only be possible thanks to the continued dedication of all of us to our weekly practice, and to our strong friendship and mutual consideration.
One of the nice things we learnt on our taiko journey is that reaching out to other taiko players will most probably lead to wonderful things happening. And so when we heard that Kenny Endo and Chizuko Endo are coming to Europe for a couple of months we immediately sent an email asking them to come over to Swansea and teach us.
Kenny Endo spent about 10 years in Tokyo playing with Oedo Sukeruko Taiko and studying classical music of the Edo period (Edo bayashi, Kabuki). So we asked him to teach us Naname and Shime basics.
Taiko players from around the UK came to Swansea to take advantage of this opportunity. Members of Mugenkyo, Kagemusha, Taiko Journey, Taiko Meantime Tamashii Taiko and Oxford Taiko arrived and brought with them drums, stands and such beautiful spirit.
We spent all day learning from the vast knowledge and experience of Kenny Endo and Chizuko. They were both so generous with their knowledge. We played drills and learnt a practice piece called ‘Oi Uchi’ on Naname. And on the shime we learnt a few Edo bayashi rhythms and could enjoy several demonstrations from Kenny and Chizuko.
The evening before – we had a demonstration and talk by Kenny and Chizuko. They played pieces written by Kenny Endo, and some from his time in Tokyo, written by Oedo Sukeruko. Kenny told us about Noh theatre and Kabuki theatre and demonstrated the use of the Kotsuzumi and voice. From his time in the Kabuki theatre in Tokyo he also demonstrated the quiet sounds that an odaiko can make that are used in Kabuki to bring to life the different natural phenomena – and unnatural phenomena too – Ghosts and spirits. It was a very inspiring evening for all of us.
Every year on the 27th June taiko groups and artists around the world celebrate the life of Daihachi Oguchi, the Japanese jazz player who recreated taiko as a modern performance art form in the 1950s.
This celebration takes the form of a public performance or a practice of the song ‘Hiryu San Dan Gaeshi‘ (‘The dragon god descends 3 times’) written by grand master Daihachi Oguchi.
By a stroke of luck this same day coincided with a massive street party celebrating another event – 50 years since Swansea became a city.
St Helen’s road was closed to traffic and taken over by various artists including children from the local primary school, dancers, bands, singers, Tai-chi practitioners and also Taiko drummers!
We were so pleased to be part of the celebrations: we have been playing together in Swansea for the last 5 years or so. We played in the city centre, on the beach and even in Taliesin! we run courses and in general we are quite ingrained in this city’s life and it was only natural for us to share our love of taiko with everyone by playing this song.
The version we played was arranged by grand master Seichii Tanaka of the San Francisco Taiko Dojo and was taught to us by his student Ting-Chi Li. It includes ‘Isami Goma’ (‘prancing horses’). We took a video of the performance and sent it to the hiryu project website, where it is now presented alongside many other versions played in by different groups at different years.
We always feel quite honoured when we are invited to play at Japanese cultural events. Japanese people who live in the UK and hear us play will sometimes come up to us to tell us how much they miss the sound of the drums.
The National Botanical Gardens of Wales and the Japanese Garden Society teamed up and with help from a professional gardener from Kyoto brought new life to the slightly neglected garden. It looked fantastic at the launch. We were invited to play at the opening of the ceremony and then gave a longer performance in the big glass house. We topped it off with pop up workshops for some of the school children that came to take part in the ceremony.