Every year on the 27th June taiko groups and artists around the world celebrate the life of Daihachi Oguchi, the Japanese jazz player who recreated taiko as a modern performance art form in the 1950s.
This celebration takes the form of a public performance or a practice of the song ‘Hiryu San Dan Gaeshi‘ (‘The dragon god descends 3 times’) written by grand master Daihachi Oguchi.
By a stroke of luck this same day coincided with a massive street party celebrating another event – 50 years since Swansea became a city.
St Helen’s road was closed to traffic and taken over by various artists including children from the local primary school, dancers, bands, singers, Tai-chi practitioners and also Taiko drummers!
We were so pleased to be part of the celebrations: we have been playing together in Swansea for the last 5 years or so. We played in the city centre, on the beach and even in Taliesin! we run courses and in general we are quite ingrained in this city’s life and it was only natural for us to share our love of taiko with everyone by playing this song.
The version we played was arranged by grand master Seichii Tanaka of the San Francisco Taiko Dojo and was taught to us by his student Ting-Chi Li. It includes ‘Isami Goma’ (‘prancing horses’). We took a video of the performance and sent it to the hiryu project website, where it is now presented alongside many other versions played in by different groups at different years.
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?
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.