Monday, December 29, 2014


To my dismay, there's still a good amount of drama about what is "authentic" taiko.  Or who is "more" of a certain taiko attribute.  It's not unique to taiko, but I feel we - you, me, the people you know in the taiko community - can do a lot to address this.

The term "poser" has several meanings, but the one I'm going with for this post is "a person that tries hard to be something they're not."

For example, some people join taiko groups looking for a connection to Japanese culture, without any blood-ties to Japan.  To some, those people aren't authentic enough.  They're not Japanese and therefore not as good as someone who is.  But who's "Japanese enough"?  Wtf does that even mean?  I have met several Caucasians that act way more Japanese than some Japanese people I know.  Sooo...what's more "authentic", ethnicity or intention?  If it's important to someone to have that connection and you think of them as a poser, does that make their connection any less important?

Then there's looking at specific styles of taiko, like Miyake, Hachijo, etc.  Would you rather watch a performance of really skilled players who take a style and modify it to make for a dazzling show?  Or people with less skill who stay true to the style but aren't as interesting to watch?  Now when I say "dazzling", I'm being subjective.  Imagine it would be dazzling to you, however the case may be.  Some of you would pick the former, some the latter.  Who's right?  Is one side a "poser" because they don't agree with the other?

Maybe it's a skill thing, seeing someone that's not very talented with taiko and instead of just thinking "they're not very good", the reaction is to think they're trying to be something they're not.  But who are you - are we - to tell someone what they should and shouldn't try?  "Sorry grandpa, you're too old to be having fun.  Sit on the couch and watch TV instead because you're a grandpa."  Would you say that?

I know appearances contribute to the "poser" commentary a lot:  Hachimaki with the red-and-white rising sun, hair in a bun with chopsticks stuck through it, people looking/acting like they're trying to be Japanese...but maybe that's all they know?  Like you never did anything embarrassing in the past, eh?  Maybe the reason they dress or look a certain way is because they haven't been exposed to the same information you and I have.  What's that proverb about holding a candle versus cursing the darkness?  Exclusion takes a lot less effort than inclusion.

Labeling someone as a poser is easy, even if that's not the actual word used and even if it's only inner dialogue.  It's a LOT harder to try to see the value and joy of someone maybe less skilled playing taiko in a way that you're not particular fond of.  It's easier to dismiss someone out of hand than think about the positives.  It's easier to act better-than-thou than it is to let it go.  And be careful you're not into the power trip that comes from negative labeling!

A caution to being a label-er is that there are probably people labeling YOU.

I still struggle sometimes with this sort of thing, it's true.  There are some people who take things to an extreme and it's hard not to have these sort of thoughts.  Even just writing this post helps put things in perspective for me.  But there are others out there - that I've met, that I've talked to - who are worried about being labeled in a bad light, and it seriously holds them back.  They worry about being "authentic enough" so that other people don't view them poorly, and it stunts their growth - it stunts our community's growth!

Don't be the person that shoots others down because you have issues.  Don't be the reason that your fellow taiko players are held back.  We don't all have to like everyone or everything, but the more support we can give each other, the better off we'll all be!  If you can't say something nice, kiai instead!

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