Thursday, June 6, 2013

What’s next?

When I started playing taiko 20 years ago, I had no idea what the taiko community was and barely even aware that there was one.

I missed out on going to the first North American Taiko Conference (NATC) back in 1997, but I wish I had.  It didn’t really pique my interest at the time but I didn’t really realize the scope of what was happening.  The second conference in 1999 was a real eye-opener for me.  Even though the movers and shakers had been in contact with each other way before that, it felt like the taiko community (in North America anyways) was starting to meet and mingle and communicate with each other.  Mind you, this was before Facebook, so interactions were less frequent and required more work to remain relevant.

Back then, the focus of the NATC and the taiko community seemed to be figuring out who we were.  Most of the workshops focused on the basics, and taiko gear was the hot commodity.

Around 2003-2005, the big thing seemed to be “superstar” groups like On Ensemble or Taikoproject, and performers that were now making a name for themselves.  Taiko was now possible (albeit it still difficult) to do as a career.  More people were starting to think of taiko outside of kumidaiko (ensemble drumming) and approach it as an art form, to explore and to dissect – not without some push-back from others.  There was also a strong push to make a national taiko organization that never took hold.

About two or three years ago, Facebook made it possible to have a centralized open-forum group for people to talk about taiko.  Many posts were controversial and threads easily went over 100 replies.  People were finally able to have a “discussion” without waiting for a national or regional gathering.  Most posters were those who had been around for a while, either posing the questions or answering them.

The last NATC in 2011 saw the pendulum swing away from the newer, genre-pushing groups and instead focusing on Japanese taiko and instructors.  This was something that many people wanted more and more of over the years, especially since modern communication made those resources much easier to find out about and contact.

And now we’re here at 2013.  The NATC is recovering from events beyond their control and looking at reinventing itself while regional gatherings are becoming more common.  More people are making a living doing taiko (although still a small number), and more drum makers are popping up.  Groups are formed faster than anyone can catalog them and the demand for equipment continues to rise.

I'm taking a stab at trying to predict what we'll see in the next few (5-15) years, but we'll see:

-  A rise in high school taiko groups in North America.
-  More attention and recognition of non-Japanese and non-North American taiko groups, such as in Europe and South America.
-  Not a large jump in recognition of taiko in culture or media, mostly due to the large majority of groups happy to play at festivals and small events.
-  Online instruction becoming a “thing”; people getting feedback live through video chat.
-  More novelty taiko gear, like lighted bachi, custom happi, maybe even drums that light up when hit.

What do you think?  What does the future of taiko hold?  What will we see in the future?  What would you like to see?

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