Thursday, May 25, 2017

Question Everything: Taiko exposure

Tanaka-sensei is attributed to have said he wanted taiko to be as well-known in America as sushi. There have definitely been more and more non-taiko performances where taiko shows up, taiko groups are asked to play, and taiko is given exposure.

But what kind of exposure do we want?  What are we comfortable with?  Is it too late to start worrying?

Take, for example, Metallica using taiko in one of their shows here.

Some people will see that and LOVE it.  Taiko in a rock concert, with a legendary group, with a crazy amount of exposure!  Others will lament at the group playing the drum poorly, and say it's not how people should play taiko.  Then there are others who may not be sure if they like it or not.

Look closer and see that there are sensor pads on the drum head most visible - played by James Hetfield - which produce different sounds when struck.  We may never know why they did this, maybe they couldn't amplify the drum enough or maybe they mostly wanted the visual?

So now you have taiko...sort of.  Does it bother you?  Encourage you?  Why?

As a community we need to realize that the cat's out of the bag.  We can say collectively that we should strive to inform and educate people about the historical use and traditions of taiko, as well as the blah blah blah can I buy a set already?  That's happened before and will continue to happen, so now what?

If you're bothered seeing taiko played by non-taiko players, you should first ask, what's a taiko player?  Does one lesson count?  Four?  Ten?  Taught by who?  Played on what?  When you see people playing on taiko in shows like this and think maybe they're not very good, have you seen a lot of different groups play taiko?  There are community groups and beginners that may be at that same level of ability.  Do we need to ask "what is taiko" again?

As always, I highly recommend reserving judgments and asking yourself questions like these when you come across taiko in unexpected settings.  It's not that you should or shouldn't like what you see, but you should ask yourself why or why not...

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