Thursday, September 10, 2015

Video: Madonna and taiko

THIS video was posted in the Facebook Taiko Community group.  Not all of you are members or go there often, but a really interesting discussion got started.

Essentially, for either a music video or concert tour, several dancers are being taught the basics of taiko (and flamenco).  The thread had people saying things ranging from that they didn't like it to that this isn't taiko to commenting on cultural appropriation.  After watching the video myself, I made a few comments that got a lot of "likes", and wanted to post those comments here.


"This thread/video touches on something I've pointed out to people in the past: If the taiko community wants to see MORE taiko out there, garner MORE attention and get MORE popularity, then we can't in the same breath be upset or shocked when it leaves "our" hands, "our" control.
The art form has to either have freedom to grow - which means seeing and hearing things people don't like, or be protected and held tight - which leads to isolation, maybe even stagnation.

I'm not coming at this from one side or the other, just noticing this push-pull dynamic from the taiko community that may never (should never?) settle."


"So here in this video we have a group of dancers trying to learn how to play taiko. They're not claiming to be taiko players. And there are those among us who say "I don't like it." That's fine. But when people say "that's not taiko," you open yourself up to the fallacy that taiko - the art form - can be defined. It can be described, but not truly defined, because it's growing constantly and people are doing stuff with it that we may never know about.

It goes back to the argument of "what is taiko?" which is a trap in itself. Who gets to define what taiko is to another? If Kodo plays Monochrome on phone books, is that taiko? If a group of Caucasians buy Asano drums and only get instruction from watching other groups play on YouTube, is that taiko? I'm not asking anyone those questions specifically, but I do ask everyone to be careful with labeling some taiko as "not taiko" when it's simply "taiko you don't like."


"Something else to consider is that we are all beginners at some point when it comes to taiko. For Madonna, she happened to want to use taiko and flamenco in her video - and maybe flamenco artists are saying the same thing that we are when they watch this video?

But consider this: there are a lot of taiko players out there that may never move as well as the dancers in this video, but maybe have better striking technique or better ki. Does that make them better or worse as taiko players? Also, maybe there are videos of us that other taiko players see and those players are thinking similar things about *us*!

Think back to the first few taiko lessons you had. Would you be embarrassed to have that broadcast to the world? Maybe the dancers felt awkward but this is their job - to sell it as best they can. And they look better than I did when I first played taiko for the first time, lol.

If we instead think all of us are beginners, if we instead look at taiko as an art form full of potential, we can still say "I don't like this" and yet still see how there are positives to be had.


There's a lot of topics in there that I might focus on in future posts, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on my thoughts or the video, or both!

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