People who play taiko know this: the more you play, the more you want to play! so now we have added an extra monthly practice night. This one is devoted to practicing Miyake and starting on a journey with our new Odaiko which is actually a big okedo.
Miyake is quite strenuous as the drums are low and the players need to squat while playing. We kept playing for a few runs of 15 minutes. Uchikomimas!
Then it was Odaiko time. First ever practice of Odaiko for us. This time it wasn’t so much about technique, but improvisation – we all wanted to just go for it! so we had a person on the one side playing straight Ji uchi (back beat) while the other side improvised. Then change sides and so on until time was up. Never enough time…
Summer has been a busy time for us, with gigs almost every weekend of July. After the Tanabata festival we played for the
tipsy runners of the beer mile relay in the Love Trails Festival. We gave them an ‘Oroshi’ (a kind of a drum roll that conveys the feeling of wind swooshing down a mountain) to start the drinking and while they ran we played our pieces for the cheering audience. This repeated 7 times – the last of which we had taken turns playing improvised solos to the mitsu-uchi (don d0 ko) back beat. Indeed we have come a long way since we had been wincing to the thought of soloing in front of anybody!
2 weeks later we played at the Gower Chilli festival. It was a bit more grim and the rain was absolutely pouring down but this didn’t stop us having fun and cheering wet people up.
Immediately after we went down the road and gave a workshop to the guests of a lovely wedding. They had then played their hearts out for the bride and groom who enjoyed the show immensely. It was nice to be part of that.
In August we had a break from gigs and group practice but some of us had gone to study taiko – with Mark Alcock at his summer school for chappa and Yoko Uchi and then – Taiko Baka with Tiffany Tamaribuchi. Taiko Baka happened for the first time in the UK, 3 days of Odaiko playing.
We couldn’t really let Tiffany leave the UK without teaching us some more so we invited her to our practice session and she helped us find energy and spirit when playing Buchi Awase, one of our favourite songs. And she also gave us some tips on playing 2 or more drums. We now have many ideas for drills and movement. We are so inspired by Tiffany’s teaching and demonstrations – ready to start our 4th year together now in September.
The Tanabata festival was one of those very special events where a taiko performance is a natural and a central part of the goings on. For us it was a perfect opportunity to fully enjoy what we do and to spread the spirit of taiko playing. We had as much floor space as we wanted, we were given the freedom to do it our way, and ample time for setting up, playing, teaching workshops and facilitating the ‘Tanko Bushi’ dance. We are very thankful to the national museum of Cardiff and specifically to Victoria for having us and making everything so smooth and easy.
Months and months of preparation from all of us: practice, design and sewing of new costumes, planning the song order, drum formations and drum movements, creating a PR video, posting on social media, practicing, creating projections for the different songs, designing and building bespoke banners, planning of lights, designing posters and flyers, practicing, singing, skipping, learning new styles, coordinating people’s activities on the days before and on the day itself, dreaming, being excited, new t-shirts, new logo, being terrified, a bit of stress, more practice, pulling together… and finally playing on stage and enjoying every minute!
And maybe most of all – the strong connections which we have re-forged with Ting-Chi Li, Xun Dong, Yumi Célia and Alison Roe.
Ting-Chi Li and Xun Dong, a.k.a. SFTD· 共鳴 (San Francisco Taiko Dojo – Resonance) style is strong, powerful, thoughtful and elegant – with every piece they played they gave every ounce of energy they had. Their collaborative spirit showed as they were perfectly in tune and in sync even though most of the time could not actually see each other.
Yumi Célia and Alison Roe, a.k.a 2taiko style is quite different – soft and flowy movements, sometimes very fast and sometimes slow, with lots of bachi twirls. This softness of movement does not take from the powerful strikes of the drum, which are almost unexpected!
Ting-chi and Xun came to teach us once more. What a pleasure! we improved leaps and bounds. We got Hiryuu up to a very high energetic level and could hear the dragon flapping its wings as we flew in the air to meet it.
Our own repertoire got a shiny gloss – every song needs some maintenance from time to time, doesn’t it? we cracked a few problematic phrases and found the beauty in them. Can’t wait to get practicing and perform at our spring concert. See you there?