It has been a long time in the making – but we have now arrived at the point of being mature enough to start learning to play the drums in the Naname style.
Sam made us 4 stands for our Nagados. But of course, the Okedos can also be slanted on the various other stands we have: an x-Miyake stand would do, and the classical okedo stand can also work. And for Hiras there is always a chair that can be tied up.
We asked Ting-Chi Li to teach us. She has been playing with San Francisco Taiko Dojo for many years and has much experience playing Naname. And she has been teaching us before and performed with us in our concert at the Taliesin.
We practiced the basic stance and grip, worked on various drills and finally played the matsuri rhythm together. It was a holistic mind and body day of exercising and learning.
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.
This stunning exhibition was launched on the 14th of June. High ranking officials from both Wales and Japan came to express the friendship between the two countries. We played our drums and expressed our #taikolove on the steps of the museum. We played traditional and new pieces side by side.
The love of taiko knows no borders – and when we play we feel some affinity to the Japanese roots of this art form. We are not Japanese but some of us encountered taiko in Japan and with those of us who only saw a performance live or on TV in the UK – we are all absolutely smitten by the taiko drums and everything that comes with them – fun, excitement, connection, self expression, community, good health and good spirits.