Thursday, July 31, 2014


After the WTG, I've been hearing about taiko competitions down in South America.  I know they take place in Japan, but not sure where else?  Since these competitions are for the most part absent in North America, I started thinking about the pros and cons of competitions.

I found that it's hard for me to do that fairly, since I have no experience with taiko competitions.  I can speculate with the best of them, but I feel more neutral about this subject than many other subjects I post about.

So I wanted to get data from the taiko community as a whole - from those who compete, as well as those who don't compete.

Maybe some people that compete don't like to compete?  Maybe some people would be motivated by winning?  Maybe there are people who compete in other, non-taiko events that don't want that sort of competition in taiko?  Maybe people that are newer to taiko feel one way, while more seasoned players feel another?

I'm just really curious.

So I made two different surveys for people to fill out!

If you play taiko and compete/have competed in taiko competitions, please go HERE.

If you play taiko and have not competed in taiko competitions, please go HERE.

I'm limited to the first 100 responses for either, so the sooner you can answer, the more likely your votes will be counted.

All data is confidential and after I get enough responses I'll compile and analyze the data!  Hope it proves interesting!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Question Everything: What "isn't" taiko?

So I love the question of “what is taiko?” because it leads to some great discussions where everyone is right.  :D

But it’s interesting to consider coming at the question from the other side of things.  What ISN’T taiko?  And when does the line get blurred for you?

A trapset drummer on a trapset.  Not taiko.
A taiko drummer on a trapset.  Taiko?
A trapset drummer on a taiko set.  Taiko?
A taiko drummer on a taiko set.  Taiko.

Easy, right?  Keep reading…

An African drumming piece, played by taiko players on taiko drums.  Taiko?
Taiko drummers playing non-Japanese percusson, like snare drums or cowbells.  Taiko?
A beautifully composed piece of taiko music, but created - and played - electronically by someone who’s never touched taiko.  Taiko?
That same music, but played by actual taiko drummers.  Taiko?
Taiko drummers holding bachi, dancing/moving, but not actually hitting anything.  Taiko?
Taiko drummers playing Yatai Bayashi, but on phone books/cushions.  Taiko?
Someone’s first day in a taiko workshop, playing Renshu, with hardly any form, technique, or musicality.  Taiko?
Martial artists with a very taiko-like mindset, playing a taiko song that looks and sounds like taiko but with very little training in taiko.  Taiko?
Robots playing taiko.  Taiko?

For these, there are no easy answers.  You’ll find people on both sides, and probably many more in the middle.  To some, it’s not even an important distinction, but to others, tremendously so.   Where do you fall?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

World Taiko Gathering 2014

Hello!  I'm back and what a weekend...

If you haven't seen all the posts and pictures on Facebook or in the Taiko Community on Facebook, I highly suggest you do so!  A lot of really great energy still buzzing around about the whole thing.

I find I become an extrovert at these sort of events, which is not my normal "setting".  So many people I haven't seen in over a year and want to connect with again, and then getting to know new people - both to the taiko community and sometimes, to taiko!

As I suspected, I sacrificed one of the events to just hang out and talk to people/peruse the marketplace.  But after going to so many conferences and gatherings, I find that it often proves more satisfying for me to do that, so no complaints!

Some great performances to watch, both at the smaller Nooner Jams, the Friday night public Lunar Jam and of course the Taiko Nation concert.  Very different to have a focus on international artists and the level of performance that affords.  I'm really curious how that will affect future conference concerts.  Do we feature groups in our own backyard or ignore geographical boundaries?

There were a lot of things to come out of the weekend that I will talk about in upcoming posts.  I even have a topic or two I'd like to post on the Taiko Community, hopefully diplomatically, ha.  Seriously though, I like when people talk intelligently and passionately about these subjects because they're important to the health, strength, and future of not just our community, but taiko as well.

Conferences always re-ignite the fire under my taiko-feet, and WTG was no exception.  I have new ideas and some goals (skill improvement, composition, workshop creation) that I can totally achieve.

I'm looking forward to NATC in June 2015 and I hope to see most of you there!  Who knows, this time I might go up during the "21-30 years" reception jam...maybe.  ;)

Monday, July 21, 2014


After Obon weekend and then WTG weekend, I'm wiped...

I'll probably let this post be a "filler" and then get back to it on Thursday.

Too much taiko?  Never!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Obon behind, WTG in front...

Just passing through as I keep this short...

San Jose Obon was an amazing 3-day event, and for the first time I made my picture album open to the public on Facebook.  Find me and you'll find it, all 400+ pictures of it!

Tomorrow a few of us leave for the first-ever World Taiko Gathering down in Little Tokyo.  It should be a lot of fun!  I'm teaching a workshop and will observe a couple of others, see some friends I haven't seen in ages (including some Kodo members yay!), enjoy a sold-out taiko concert, and just enjoy being around a group of excited taiko people!

Monday's post will be a filler as I recover and hopefully in a week I'll get back to more regular posts.

Hope to see some of you this weekend!

Monday, July 14, 2014

San Jose Obon 2014

By the time you read this, San Jose Obon will be over for 2014.

It's a big deal for SJT every year, not just because it's our biggest festival event - at 45 minutes both days - but we host 4 collegiate groups that are performing over the weekend, a HUGE potluck the Friday night before, and the odori dancing at night that most of SJT dances in, if not also performs a few pieces during.

If you've never been to San Jose Obon and have a chance to, it's something else.  So much so, that I'm writing a very short post because I'm already tired and it hasn't happened yet!  Ha!  Hope to see you there in 2015!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Trust me, I'm a soloist

Does a soloist have an obligation to their audience?

Should a soloist entertain?  Should they challenge the listener?  Should they play things that everyone can follow?  Should they make sure they don't "upstage" the next soloist?  Different people will have different answers.

One thing I appreciate is when a soloist gives the listener concrete moments to come back to.  I can syncopate and play some pretty crazy stuff but if I never come back to the downbeat, if I never give the audience some sense of purposeful phrasing, I'm going to lose them.

In that sense, I can ask them to "trust" me when I go off on a crazy rhythm, that I'll come back to the downbeat, the 1 of a phrase.  I'll need their trust again when I go off a 2nd, 3rd, 4th time...

It's like a roller coaster.  A good ride builds things up, whizzes people around and makes them scream, then gives a few moments of stability before doing it all over again.  If a ride just kept making people scream without any pause, it would be exhausting and/or overwhelming for the riders.  Translated to music, syncopation without a downbeat is just noise and so is density without texture.

I doubt the audience think of it in such a way, but I know personally when I hear a soloist go all over the place - which I hear myself being guilty of in the past - my brain stops listening after a while. 

When you solo, how are you earning the audience's trust?

Monday, July 7, 2014

On teaching workshops

It's about two weeks before the World Taiko Gathering and I've been organizing and planning out my workshop on rhythm.

Even when I've taught the same workshop several times, I'm always trying to improve on it.  I rely highly on the feedback I get once the workshop's over, but I also look at what people like in other workshops (that aren't mine), as well as what I like in workshops that I've taken.

I'm not going to list all the factors I might take into consideration; that's a long post that only a few people would care about.  

I've seen workshops that are taught as created, with no deviation, and either you get/enjoy it or not.  I've seen workshops that are totally dependent on what the people/group want, and adaptable to a point where there's little direction.  And I can't say either extreme is bad, because with the right teacher or material, people can enjoy them a lot.

In a way, it's easier to teach on either extreme.  It's a lot of work to create a framework and allow for flexibility while also responding to people's needs (which you won't find out about until you're doing it).  Even though it's difficult, most workshops try to do that. 

There tend to be people that are struggling as you progress, as well as those who are having way too easy of a time and getting disinterested.  How do you engage everyone equally?

There's also consideration for how much equipment I want - it would be great to have one drum per participant, but if I'm one of dozens of teachers, I don't want to be greedy.  It makes me have to think about what drills I'm doing, because some are difficult to do with 2-3 people on a single drum.

Finally, I've found having a buffer time at the end is really valuable.  Leaving time for people to ask questions, address things that weren't covered, or go back to difficult drills is often appreciated.  However, it's always good to have something planned in case there *aren't* any questions!  Better to have too much stuff and know what to take off than not enough and artificially extend things.

This isn't a post asking you to be kind to your workshop leaders - although it's appreciated, haha.  These are just some thoughts and insights about what can go into planning and teaching a workshop.  I personally find the balancing act of it all a lot of fun and the satisfaction of seeing people "get it" is only matched by meeting people years later who tell me things I've taught still prove useful!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Video: Konnakol (just a little bit)

Konnakol is a South Indian vocalization of rhythms and patterns.  In taiko we have kuchishoga, but kuchishoga corresponds to sounds that you can make on the drum while konnakol does not come from drum sounds.

Indian rhythms are as daunting as they are amazing to me, and I've yet to really sink my teeth into exploring this genre of rhythm.  Konnakol interests me because it's not dependent on a drum and I hope that looking into it more will enhance and challenge my own abilities.

To give you a taste of how konnakol can be used, here's a clip.  It might go right over your head at first - consider that this is one of the easier clips I've seen and took me some getting used to as well!  It's not just the patterns that take getting used to, it's the hand motions that are done to keep time as you go through the patterns.

We'll see where study in this takes me; I'm wondering if I can use some stripped-down versions of this for my workshop at the WTG conference in a few weeks...but I need to make sure I can do it before I make anyone else try it first!