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.
A lot of Taiko has happened in the last few months. We have continued to practice every week as we do, with more emphasis on drills and learning new repertoire with our new members. Yes, we have grown! and the different levels in the group mean we need to take it slower and differently.
But hey, going back to basics is good for everyone – and practice is the place to do so. Reflect on our form, movements, efficiency, power and musicality.
Miyake and Odaiko practice are also going on separately once a month.
And a new style has been added to our journey – Yatai Bayashi. We enjoyed a whole day of teaching from Tsuchigumo‘s Martin and Shonagh.
With Shonagh and Martin we also had a session on small percussion: the chappa (small cymbals) and chanchiki (handheld metal plate), on shime, movement, and interlocking rhythms. The Tsuchis, as we like to call them fondly, are great taiko players and excellent teachers. They gave us lots of input and so generously.
And a special mention goes to Miyuki Williams, co-founder of Mugenkyo who generously spared almost 2 hours prior to their Swansea gig to teach us some of her philosophy on playing and some Fukui rhythms which we love. She is the source and inspiration to much of the UK taiko scene.
And if we are on the subject of Fukui, we are continuing to learn from Alison Roe, which we all really cherish.
The more we play, the more we have to learn! And we are grateful to each and every one of our teachers who are so generous with their knowledge and time and energy.
We were also quite busy in the gig front – a repeat invitation from the Ospreys got us into the Liberty stadium again. We played for the Swansea Chinese new year’s celebration in the waterfront museum – and gave workshops to the public – and to the mayor himself! and a special gig for us was at Sam’s 7th thank you gig where we helped raise funds for Morrison Hospital’s cancer ward.
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.