Thursday, January 12, 2012

Influences: People

I wanted to give mention to a few people who've shaped me into the artist I am now. It might be in direct ways or otherwise, but it does me good to remember who I owe gratitude to.

- Roy and PJ Hirabayashi

If you don't know who Roy and PJ are, you probably don't play taiko should! I'm serious. Their contribution to North American taiko - and taiko in general - have a lot to do with where taiko is today, and even if you've never met them, without their influence, it's possible you might not even be playing taiko. Even though I learned most of my taiko directly from PJ, I can't discount how much Roy influenced my growth. It's a bit simplistic to think of it this way, but I give credit to PJ for shaping how I play and to Roy for what I play. PJ literally poked and prodded at me for many many years in order to get my lanky frame to "get it", whereas Roy challenged my sensibilities and assumptions both musically and outside of practice. Along the way I have had my share of head-butting with them both, which I know endeared me ever-so-much with them, but I hope I do them both justice.

- Yoshikazu Fujimoto

Yeah, this is a little fan service, but after falling in love with Kodo, I soon found myself admiring Yoshikazu more and more every time I got to see him. At first he was "the guy on Odaiko" that blew me away, but in time I got to know him as a very genuine person that really gave all of himself when he performed. He didn't have need to have the fastest hands or the fanciest moves but he put out the kind of energy that I strive to achieve every time I perform.

- Keith Terry

I've mentioned Keith in previous posts, but for now I'll just say he's a body musician extraordinaire. I met him through SJT when his group collaborated at our 20th anniversary, and have taken workshops from him as well as seen him perform live several times. I can't do what he does, not even close, but he made me think about how the body can be used as an instrument and not just a delivery vehicle. Being able to feel music *in* my body instead of just making it *with* my body was a radical mind-shift for me and it's still an integral part of how I perform.


There are other people who continue to push and inspire me, like Yurika who continues to challenge how I think about things, my sensei who keeps finding ways of making familiar things fresh, and my mom who supports me even when I doubt myself.

No matter how good I might get, the people that help me get there will always deserve a large part of that credit. Why not take a minute and think of the people in your life that helped you get where you are now?


  1. "If you don't know who Roy and PJ are, you probably don't play taiko. I'm serious."

    Or you're in the Midwest. Things are different here. That's really the biggest thing I picked up from NATC: the West Coast groups seem almost like a close-knit family where everyone knows everyone else, at least indirectly.

    Here? I know there are a couple other groups within a 5 hour driving radius but I couldn't tell you what the names of those groups are, much less who is a member and who's trained with whom. Our own group has closer ties to Osuwa Daiko and even Kodo than SJT or SFTD or Portland or... well, any group in the US.

    I would go so far as to say there *is* no Midwest taiko community as such. (There's apparently some attempt to change that by holding conferences, but from what little I've heard it's slow going.)

    I'd bet half our members have never met Roy and PJ Hirabayashi, and probably almost that many don't know who they are.

    (Nothing against them; I've taken a NATC workshop with them, and indeed they are nice people and taught some valuable things, and wish I had the opportunity to learn more from them.)

  2. Point taken Dave, I changed that part of my post. For me, not knowing who Roy and PJ are are a lot like not knowing who Seiichi Tanaka is. Meeting and/or training with them is one thing, but just knowing a little bit about how they've gotten taiko to where it is today is something I believe all taiko players in NA should have basic knowledge of.