Monday, April 29, 2013

Looking out to look in

There’s two ways to approach the study of an art.  One is to focus solely on the art as you are taught it, analyzing the details of form and the nuances of shape.  The other is to look at the art in comparison to other arts, how things are similar and how they are different.

For me, I’ve been able to focus heavily on my two chosen arts – taiko and karate – and relate the forms to each other.  I don’t think my taiko would get better if I didn’t have karate, but I think I would focus more on karate if I didn’t have taiko.  That being said, I know my karate has benefited from various aspects of my taiko training.

Lately, I’ve been interested in supplementing my taiko training by studying other arts.  I don’t have the opportunity to travel far and study outside the Bay Area, but I want to take lessons in things that touch on what I already do, in order to gain a new appreciation and perspective, as well as develop my skills further.

Last year I had a shekere lesson from a Latin percussionist that was at our 20th Anniversary Concert.  SJT uses shekere a lot in our repertoire, but I wanted to see if there were things in my technique or understanding of the instrument I could improve on.  As I was more interested in technique rather than Latin/Cuban music, I didn’t continue down that path.

I’ve made a short list of the next arts to look into:

1 – Stepping, or Step-Dancing.   This is a form of body percussion, which I am very much a fan of (doing and watching).  I think understanding a form of percussive movement might open me up to different ideas both in soloing and composition.  I don’t want to necessarily learn “dance” so this is a good hybrid that interests me.

2 – Improv (comedy).  At SJT, 90% of our songs have some form of improvisational soloing in them.   I’ve been soloing for 20 years now and want to see how other people approach improvising.  While I don’t want to “ham it up” during taiko, it would be interesting to use words instead of notes, explore a different kind of stage presence, and see how those skills translate back to playing drums.

3 – Konnakol (South Indian vocalization).  Unlike kuchishoga for taiko, where the sounds correspond to places on the drum, konnakol is only verbal.  I figure trying to take up tabla or mridangam at this point is too much, but if I can get a better concept of Indian rhythms through something I can do without a drum, that would benefit me a lot...for playing on a drum.

4 – Janggu/Janggo/Changgo (Korean hourglass drum).   This is the drum that inspired the katsugi-style okedo that Kodo made so popular.  I'm comfortable on katsugi, but I would like a different perspective on it as well.  I took a Korean drumming workshop at a NATC back in the day and although I wasn’t on a changgo, the rhythms were very different and very interesting.  I’d like to try it again.


I don’t figure I’ll get to all of these; I have to find classes/workshops that fit into my schedule and/or teachers willing to work with me.   I also have to find teachers that I feel comfortable with and hopefully who understand what I’m hoping to get out of it – but then again, it’s their art form and I’m just a student!

If I take any classes in these, I’ll write about it, for sure.

What about you?  If you could take workshops outside of the art you’re doing now, to help you understand that art better, what would they be?

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