So, apparently I am some kind of crazy person. I have long had an affection for Japanese Taiko Drumming, just little opportunity to play. After being first inoculated by Soh Daiko in NYC, and later seeing the world-class Kodo. I took some workshops back in the mid 80s, but despite an ongoing interest, I never really had the opportunity to pursue it. But over the years I did learn a spectrum of world percussion, Afro-Carribean, Middle Eastern, Celtic/Irish, Native American, etc… In the year or so before COVID hit, I did acquire some actual used Taiko Drums. I began to incorporate them in our Jams with local world percussion group Shangö Percussion here in Berkley Springs, WV. I started taking workshops and attending the East Coast Taiko Conferences (till COVID) The group mostly dissipated during the pandemic, but I tried to keep on. The nearest Taiko Dojo is Mark H Rooney’s School of Taiko in the Takoma Park near DC. two and half hours away. So I could make Workshops or Events, but not classes. Finding myself the only Taiko Player in Morgan County, likely the Eastern Panhandle – If I wanted people to play with, I’d have to make ’em myself.
In January, the local arts collective, the Morgan Arts Council, asked If I could do a Taiko Presentation for their first ever Cherry Blossom Festival in April. I said I thought I could put something together… (OH HELL YES). But realized that it would be way better to show proper kimidaiko – or ensemble drumming – as a proper expression of North American Taiko. So I started recruiting some
vict-… participants. The breakthrough was at a local variety show, The Bath Follies where I did some African and Taiko drumming with the last surviving member of Shangö. “If you thought that looked like fun, we’ve an event coming up in April. See me after the show” Got about 15 people. Ten of ’em STAYED. Holy cats.
This group of merry thumpers debuted on April 29th, 2023 at Morgan Arts Council’s first Sakura Matsuri festival. After the Standing Ovation, despite my being an obsessive taskmaster and all around Taiko a**hole, they wanted to keep on going. So now we have Shangö Mountain Taiko – a little Appalachian community Taiko group – 2-1/2 hours away from the nearest Taiko dojo. We have no Zen Temple, no Buddhist Church, no Japan Society chapter, no Asian American Community of note, no college or university, no major institutional sponsors, and our schools are ridiculously cash strapped. Just a bunch of hillbillies with sticks, with our hats out.
We did another gig – Bringing in the May – a local Faerie Festival, and in a couple of weeks, we’re headed down to Buckhannon, WV to perform in the international showcase and parade for the World Association of Marching Show Bands Annual Championship! Apparently we are a good fit, given this year’s theme of “Uniting the World Through Music” and overcame my protests that we were only THREE MONTHS OLD and we don’t MARCH (they’re putting us on a float! Okay, then. Our first road trip and our first parade. Should be… fun, challenging and interesting. So I am kind of proud of my crew of happy thumpers, form and cue errors and the 1001 things to work on. Astonishingly, I got them from Square Zero to presentable in just over two months. Take the win, monkey-boy! They’re getting better with each session. So we’ll see where it goes!
So yeah, I started a small town Taiko group at Sixty Four. Audacious. Batshit. Lunacy! I will freely admit my Yatai-bayashi days are probably past, but I can still play Miyake and I’m getting downright thumpy on Odaiko...
But that does set me up with a five item To-do list.
1. Excellence. Just get better at what we do. Form, dynamics, presentation, style, memorization… the works.
2. Repertoire. We debuted with essentially two and a half songs and an intro including riffs copped from Led Zeppelin songs! If we want to do a show longer than 25 min, we’d best get on that.
3. 501(3)c filing. We need to be a legal not-for-profit entity to do a LOT of things – have a bank account, solicit sponsors, take out loans, get paid for gigs, and apply for grants. Which directly leads to…
4. DRUMS. Taiko drums are CRAZY Expensive – the cost of these magnificent instruments is the number one barrier to entry for this amazing and thunderous art form. And then lastly…
5. Gigs. People work harder, study, and practice when there are events to work towards. And they are trickling in, thank the gods.
So it would seem that my Studio is “shadow-sponsoring” a local community Taiko group (essentially, paying for shizzz). It may be the utmost folly – but we’re sure having a lot of fun! Don Don doko DON…. So Re!