Monday, August 13, 2012

Question Everything: Roots

There's a strong feeling among many that North American taiko needs to keep the connection to the Japanese-American experience, and take steps to help new groups and new players understand that history.

In 30 or 50 years from now, I wonder if that connection will still be as strong, or as important.  Will groups still feel connected to the J-A experience?  If more and more non J-A people are playing taiko in NA, will that connection still be relevant?  If younger groups pop up with generations far-removed from even fourth-generation J-A, should the connection be forced if it's not there?

If the connection isn't there down the road, does that mean that NA taiko will be "worse"?  Or worse off?  What would that even mean?  Would it just be "different"?  Will people be able to tell?  How?

I was also thinking that the art form of kumidaiko, ensemble drumming, comprises almost all NA taiko.  Is the root of kumidaiko Japanese?  We credit Daihachi Oguchi - who was Japanese - with its creation, but he was also a jazz drummer, where he arguably got the idea of arranging the drums in a group.  Does nationality determine the root of an art form?  Does artistic background determine the root?  If it's the former, then you could call kumidaiko a Japanese art.  If it's the latter, then kumidaiko is African-American.  But is it either?

So if we're not clear on the roots of kumidaiko (in terms of where it "came" from), and kumidaiko is most of what is done in NA taiko, then where is the root of NA taiko?  Can NA taiko be rooted in the J-A experience while the style of taiko (ensemble) remains separate?

Finally, I wonder if the drive to keep J-A or Japanese connections alive in taiko stunts the development of the art form.  I know that's controversial, but that doesn't mean it's not a valid question.  If people are constantly trying to inform and bring other groups into the "fold", does that information create obligation in those groups and people?

Imagine you discover a cool new instrument.  You don't know what it's called but you create all these really cool patterns on it.  You have all these ideas for it, including how to incorporate dance moves into it, how to merge it with hip hop music, etc.  Then someone tells you what that instrument is, how it's traditionally used, and how you have to do X and never do Y and research Z before you can play it.

That's a pretty extreme example, but it gets my point across.  We wouldn't want someone to just take a taiko and incorporate it into some other art form without respecting the tradition, right?  But what if that "misuse" led to some great innovation?

...something like taking a solo instrument and making it into an ensemble, perhaps?  *cough*kumidaiko*cough*

No comments:

Post a Comment