Various perspectives, players and projects which I find compelling, in no particular order:
Taiko costumes – to wear or not to wear? An interesting exploration of the tradition of taiko uniforms by US taiko player Kristofer Bergstrom: Interpreted Tradition: The Exciting Possibilities of Taiko Costuming
Playing for free? Another excellent article by Kris Bergstrom on why you generally shouldn’t perform for free (unless it’s really worth your while or for an excellent cause): Red flag!
Taiko groups and projects
Taiko in Scotland – an article I wrote about the Scottish taiko scene when I started this website in 2016.
Kurumaya-sensei is my main taiko root and inspiration. His playing is powerful yet unbelievably fluid and immensely creative. His longstanding group is Hibiki Daiko and he also performs with his top students in a group called Miyama No Kaze. No video can do him justice but you can find a few on my Hokuriku taiko page.
Amanojaku have been one of my favourite taiko groups ever since I first joined Mugenkyo and spent hours watching taiko videos as part of my training. In 2014 I got the opportunity to attend a workshop with them when I was visiting Tokyo as, fortuitously, one of my taiko friends from Montreal, Gregorio Rabuñal, had moved to Tokyo and become a member. The workshop, which involved 3 two-hour sessions of naname style, bujin-style and odaiko, was gruelling and phenomenal. It’s always an inspiration to experience the commitment with which the Japanese play taiko and Watanabe-sensei, the group leader, had many interesting and profound things to say.
Despite their playing very different styles, his and Kurumaya-sensei’s approaches to taiko are very similar. Both have developed taiko forms and compositions which are deeply rooted in their local area yet embrace innovation and collaboration with other artforms. Both also emphasise the value of going deeply into an activity, not just to learn about that activity, but to learn about learning, about yourself and about life.
In the run-up to Amanojaku’s 30th anniversary concert, Greg made some taster videos, each focusing on a different Amanojaku piece. They’re well worth a watch, both for the playing and the commentary.
As it is the case for any piece, if you don’t perform it for about 3 to 5 years, that piece’s unique ‘flavor’ doesn’t really come out. After our 10th anniversary, by the time of our 20th, it had really seeped into our bodies. For this 30th anniversary, I think you will see sharper and more profound solos that evidence the years of trial, error and refinement of the group.
Watanabe-sensei, Amanojaku, 2016
Bujin – this is one of my favourite taiko pieces for the way it combines powerful movement with interesting rhythms and stunning choreography, and was the inspiration for Mugenkyo’s piece, Tomoe
Dotou (Greg’s favourite piece)
Kagura (an early composition)