Hi friends! For the past few months, I've been re-learning a music/ movement practice from my childhood that I wanted to share with you all: taiko! Taiko is a traditional Japanese drumming form (UMA homies Shin and Yushi know about it I'm sure). There are also many different styles within the overall umbrella of taiko. Here is a picture of me as a youngin performing taiko at a school festival:
As you can see the drums are pretty big! The style I’m playing here (called beta) involves bringing your sticks (bachi) all the way above your head and bringing them down with full force for the bigger hits. So many of the styles are played in a really full-bodied way, which has been interesting to explore as someone who mainly dances nowadays. It’s also been fun to get on the other side of things and actually produce rhythms/music.
Before I continue: big shout out to my teacher Mac for just randomly offering to teach me taiko after I wrote a thinkingdance review of his piece that was in Fringe, and also his wife Alex for teaching me taiko while being a badass dancer and medical professional at the same time. They are the other two people that you will see in the videos below!
This is the main style I’ve been practicing, called naname, where the drum is tilted on this 45 degree-ish angle. This makes for a really cool, almost whip-like relationship between the hips and the arms, and there’s lots of gorgeous horizontal flowy movement potential (skip to 2:20 for prime example). The relationship of the stance to the torso kind of reminds me of waacking, like those movements when you twist your body and use the momentum fling your arms, but it’s as if the sticks are an extra arm joint where rotation is possible. People also sometimes add in cool-looking twirly stick moves. Watch my teacher in front to see how stick twirlies are actually done!
This style is called nidan, and it’s so fun! As you can see it involves two different drums at different angles, and it’s usually played with several different people rotating in and out of the middle. It’s like taiko partner dancing. (Remember partner dancing?!) Except you are also waving around giant sticks that you could accidentally wack your partner with. Exhilarating! This is an excerpt from a longer song that Mac is creating right now.