Studying with Kenny and Chizuko Endo

Taiko players from around the UK with Kenny and Chizuko

One of the nice things we learnt on our taiko journey is that reaching out to other taiko players will most probably lead to wonderful things happening. And so when we heard that Kenny Endo and Chizuko Endo are coming to Europe for a couple of months we immediately sent an email asking them to come over to Swansea and teach us.

Kenny Endo spent about 10 years in Tokyo playing with Oedo Sukeruko Taiko and studying classical music of the Edo period (Edo bayashi, Kabuki). So we asked him to teach us Naname and Shime basics.

Taiko players from around the UK came to Swansea to take advantage of this opportunity. Members of Mugenkyo, Kagemusha, Taiko Journey, Taiko Meantime Tamashii Taiko and Oxford Taiko arrived and brought with them drums, stands and such beautiful spirit.

We spent all day learning from the vast knowledge and experience of Kenny Endo and Chizuko. They were both so generous with their knowledge. We played drills and learnt a practice piece called ‘Oi Uchi’ on Naname. And on the shime we learnt a few Edo bayashi rhythms and could enjoy several demonstrations from Kenny and Chizuko.

The evening before – we had a demonstration and talk by Kenny and Chizuko. They played pieces written by Kenny Endo, and some from his time in Tokyo, written by Oedo Sukeruko. Kenny told us about Noh theatre and Kabuki theatre and demonstrated the use of the Kotsuzumi and voice. From his time in the Kabuki theatre in Tokyo he also demonstrated the quiet sounds that an odaiko can make that are used in Kabuki to bring to life the different natural phenomena – and unnatural phenomena too – Ghosts and spirits. It was a very inspiring evening for all of us.

Hiryu Project

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.

Update

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.

Almost all of Aber Taiko are here – one missing.

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.

Learning the yatai bayashi rhythm every which way: sitting down with drums slanted, on the Odaiko, on shime and upright. Then move around, pick a new position and repeat.

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.

At the water front Museum during the celebrations of the Chinese new year.
Playing ‘Raku’ in a pub for Sam’s Thankyou event
In the Liberty stadium, with a ball heading our way!

Miyake and Odaiko practice

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…

Till next month!

Summer Taiko

Summer  has been a busy time for us, with gigs almost every weekend of July. After the Tanabata festival we played for the

lovely day for a beer mile!

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!

Drum line and set list at the Gower Chilli Festival

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.