5 of us went up to Glangrwyney for a whole day of Taiko tuition with James Barrow. The day was organised by Ursula Frank from TMD. People came from as far as Oxford and Birmingham. James taught us his piece ‘Eclipse’. After his first demonstration it sounded so complex, but he broke it down to very short phrases and we had it in the first 2 hours. It is a great piece, with accents on left and right hands, on the on and off beats, a real brain teaser. We started out on upright stands but had a chance, throughout the day, to try playing the magnificent Odaiko, give katsugi okedo a go, and also some Yatai style. And another very useful tool – play the same piece with different musical intention. So we started out with thinking of a happy, floating moment and played Eclipse light heartedly. We then descended into a chaotic and creative few minutes where
everyone just made all kinds of rhythms and sounds. Out of that darkness we were pulled out by a sombre mitsu-uchi on the Odaiko, and played it again with a more grounded, powerful feel.
And as always with Taiko – we all were supporting each other with shouts, smiles, eye contact and body language that conveyed our utter happiness to be there at that moment in time, playing together.
James made ‘Eclipse’ open source and we will definitely use it to improve so many skills – left right coordination and dexterity, musicality and creativity.
We started learning the piece ‘Hiryu San Dan Gaeshi’ originally written by Grandmaster Daihachi Oguchi in the first beginner’s course that we ran. I learnt it from several online videos such as the Hiryu Project and taught the group. However, the subtlety of any song is hard to realise from a video and so I seeked some guidance from Ting-Chi Li.
I knew that Ting-Chi had played this song while at the San Franscisco Taiko Dojo, under Tanaka sensei. And after a few email exchanges we decided it’s so much better if Ting-Chi came over and taught us herself. And so, on the 11th March, we had a full day of detailed study of the SFTD version of Hiryu and Isami Goma combined. We learnt from Ting-Chi not only the rhythms, but also the movements and most importantly, the meaning of the song and the spirit in which to play it. Ting-Chi is a fabulous teacher – she is clear, energetic and very supportive. She got us playing at the top of our ability with the most energy and happiness we could master. She helped us improve our kata (form) and our musicality. Her energy and love for this song was very catchy! And we got a little taste of how it is to play in the SFTD. She came with her long time friend and Taiko collaborator – Xun Dong, who helped during the day and took some beautiful photos that really captured the essence of the day we had.
A very inspiring day was had with Jonathan, founder of Kagemusha Taiko and Lucy also from Kagemusha, who supported him on the day. We learnt some of Jonathan’s philosophy – that we should take taiko and create with it what is authentic for us here. We are not Japanese and we come from a different background, but that doesn’t mean we are not allowed to enjoy taiko as we see fit!
We then had a session of basic technique – stance, arm movements and group playing.This is always good for even experienced players. But as we had a few complete beginners, this was even more important.
After lunch we had our children’s session. It was end of half term and only 3 children signed up this time. And they had a go at a short version of ‘Shimabayashi‘ – a song written by Jonathan.
When the children left after giving us a little concert, we continued with some more complicated arm movements – here we are, trying to figure out how to put together a diagonal movement in one arm and a circular in the other…
We also learnt how to move around the drums – a very liberating concept for us, being used to being very grounded behind a drum.
This was all just what we needed as a group – an injection of new choreography and movement. Jonathan and Lucy made sure we understood everything and were very encouraging of us to take all that we had learnt and incorporate it into our repertoire and drills. We have already managed to practice some of the new moves with our beginner’s class and we definitely feel more confident in our body while playing.Thanks Jonathan and Lucy!:-)
And thanks to the Arts council of Wales for funding our project. There was one person who told us he was looking for a way to play taiko for a few years and couldn’t find anything. We are so happy that we succeeded in reaching him. Just goes to show how important advertising can be.