At the end of February we had the pleasure and good fortune to host Yuta Kato for a weekend of workshops, food, walks and talks. Yuta is a Japanese-American Taiko artist who had just decided to become independent after years and years of being the principal teacher at LATI. He has been playing since he was seven – he can play anything, at any speed, and the way he uses his whole body to play is very unique and captivating. He taught us so many things in those 12 hours: Omiyage from beginning to end, Yodan basics and Hachijo basics. His love of Taiko and of teaching came through in everything he was showing us. And it was not only about the technique and the rhythms. After all, without telling your story when you play, why are you playing? But how DO you tell your story with sticks and drum? ah, that’s where the magic is. Yuta had a way of getting us to feel all the feelings and channel them while we played. It needs practice and being open – and a lifetime of exploration.
What made the weekend even more special was having taiko friends with us – James Barrow came with a van full of drums (and Yuta!); more players came from Bristol, the Brecon Beacons, and even Exeter.
We were all very inspired to practice more and become better players, and keep and maintain our connections with each other. Thanks Yuta, we already miss you!
The past year has been exciting for us in Aber Taiko. A year ago it seemed that Covid had overtaken important things in our lives, we were only just getting back to somewhat regular practice but the future for us as a Taiko group was not clear at all. We had no gigs in sight, we had not played regularly together and our repertoire was nestled in our brains and bodies, dormant.
We had then made the decision to invite new people to try out practicing with us with the idea that while for some the pandemic made Taiko harder to commit to, maybe for others this would be just the time to try something new.
This was a critical point in our journey as a group – and proved to pick us all up, shake the cobwebs, and got us to commit again to regular Taiko practice.
Several people started out, and 3 of them have now joined us as members, practicing regularly and learning our repertoire in the speed of light. Gig and workshop invitations dropped in our email and we had produced our own gig to show off our new members to friends and family in Singleton Park.
And now, a year has passed and we are ready again to welcome new people to join us.
So here is our offer: we are opening up the first hour of our Taiko practice sessions (Thursdays 6:45 – 8:00pm) from the 13th Oct till the end of October. Leave your worries at the door and join the fun! Connect to your body, get fit, be musical, be loud, and meet new people. We will teach the basics starting with how to stand, how to hold the drumsticks and how to hit the drum. Then there will be rhythms and movement and all the fun things. If you are 16 or older, you are welcome!! These 3 sessions in October will be stand-alone ones, you can come to any or all of them.
At the end of October you can decide if you want to come regularly, and then in November we will start learning a new piece together and each practice session will build on those before it.
To join the October practices you will need to:
Book your place in advance, (£7 per session, £5 concessions), as you go (email email@example.com for details).
Bring your own ear plugs: the drums are big and LOUD.
Be able to be active for the hour, albeit listening to your body and taking care of your well-being while we practice. Taiko drumming is a physical activity which can be intense at times.
Agree to adhere to our COVID19 safety measures and not attend with any COVID19/influenza symptoms (if unable to arrive due to COVID19 you will be refunded). Whatever else we do, we keep 3 doors open to allow fresh air and take regular breaks to go outside.
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.
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.
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.