Monday, August 22, 2016

Is this taiko? Vol. 01

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Is that taiko?

I bet most of you are saying "no", for various reasons.  Let me see if I can guess most of them:

  1. They're not playing on taiko; those are western drums.
  2. They're not using bachi, those are mallets.
  3. They're not in any real stance or kata.
  4. Their technique is really sloppy.
  5. They're not wearing any sort of Japanese outfit, just white suits.
  6. They don't kiai.
  7. They're a bunch of White guys.
  8. It's not a taiko song.
  9. You didn't like it.

What did I miss?  Let's take a closer look:

  1. They're not playing on barrel-style drums, nope.  For some of you, that's the defining issue right there.  But with more and more alternatives to buying or making drums from barrels, when will this be less of an issue?
  2. I've seen a lot of different kinds of drumsticks in taiko, from mallets to bamboo slats.  I've even seen taiko players use their hands! *gasp*  Does what you strike a drum with define the art form?
  3. Does a low stance make a taiko player?  There are a lot of people who don't have a very deep or very athletic stance.  Sometimes the drums are just really low to the ground and a person doesn't have the flexibility to get low.  Many groups also don't care or focus on a very deep or stationary stance.
  4. Does sloppy arm technique mean it's not good?  Close your eyes and tell me how it sounds.  More than a few taiko pieces sound similar to this, and this group is very much on-beat when they play.
  5. There are a lot of performances where people wear all kinds of weird things.  Suits are far from weird.  
  6. Okay, they don't kiai.  But they interact with the audience in a VERY similar way that taiko groups have, in a call-and-response style.  Some taiko groups and players are so new and/or so focused on doing well that there's little interaction with the audience, or even each other.  Does how you exchange energy define your art form?
  7. Yep, a bunch of White guys.  So what?
  8. What is a "taiko" song?  Kodo did a version of "Orekama" which was originally written for a percussion quintet.  There are several narimono-only (hand percussion) songs out there.  Is your definition of what a taiko song is based only on what you've seen before?  If the exact same patterns were played on actual taiko, could it then qualify in your eyes?
  9. Not liking a thing doesn't make it less of a thing.  I loathe onions but that doesn't mean they're not onions.  Not liking Justin Timberlake's pop music doesn't mean he's not making pop music.  What if someone didn't like your taiko performance?  Does that make it "less" taiko?  Nope.

Personally, I'm not saying I think it's taiko, but like with most of my posts, I want you to think about the reasons behind your feelings on questions like this!

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