17 performances which varied from playing for the Swansea Half Marathon runners, to appearing on Welsh TV teaching Rugby players to play taiko, to the relaunch of a Japanese Garden in front of the Japanese ambassador, to rugby stadium gigs and the Chinese New Years celebration. Workshops and demonstrations in local schools and kids clubs. Our Taiko life is always fun and exciting.
All those gigs enabled us to continue studying taiko and this year we had amazing teachers: Ingmar Kikat taught us that we can dance when we drum. Kenny Endo opened our eyes to the classical aspects of taiko.
Ting-Chi Li continued to guide us on the way of playing taiko in the slanted position
Martin and Shonagh taught us Yatai Bayashi, polyrhythms, shime chappa and kane, and Alison Roe pushed us to be musical and brave while soloing over the mitsu uchi backbeat on one or two drums.
And all that can only be possible thanks to the continued dedication of all of us to our weekly practice, and to our strong friendship and mutual consideration.
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.
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.
Months and months of preparation from all of us: practice, design and sewing of new costumes, planning the song order, drum formations and drum movements, creating a PR video, posting on social media, practicing, creating projections for the different songs, designing and building bespoke banners, planning of lights, designing posters and flyers, practicing, singing, skipping, learning new styles, coordinating people’s activities on the days before and on the day itself, dreaming, being excited, new t-shirts, new logo, being terrified, a bit of stress, more practice, pulling together… and finally playing on stage and enjoying every minute!
And maybe most of all – the strong connections which we have re-forged with Ting-Chi Li, Xun Dong, Yumi Célia and Alison Roe.
Ting-Chi Li and Xun Dong, a.k.a. SFTD· 共鳴 (San Francisco Taiko Dojo – Resonance) style is strong, powerful, thoughtful and elegant – with every piece they played they gave every ounce of energy they had. Their collaborative spirit showed as they were perfectly in tune and in sync even though most of the time could not actually see each other.
Yumi Célia and Alison Roe, a.k.a 2taiko style is quite different – soft and flowy movements, sometimes very fast and sometimes slow, with lots of bachi twirls. This softness of movement does not take from the powerful strikes of the drum, which are almost unexpected!
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?