Thursday, August 03, 2006


The main reason we're here in Japan is taiko. The leader of the group I play with was in contact with some groups here and was trying to arrange some concerts. We were possibly going to play a festival in Osaka, but this eventually fell through, although not after plans and itineraries were set in motion. We did have a guaranteed gig at a theme park, which we played the hell out of, and even managed to rouse the heat-addled audience that was taiko'd out by the five youth groups that had played prior to us. The odd thing was to watch the other non-taiko people ignore what was going on as they got off a ride and had to exit past the youth groups. Some didn't even glace left to identify the source of the loud pounding sound. It may be that youth taiko is so much a part of the culture that it isn't really worth attention by people other than the parents. This was certainly apparent as the youth groups played and you could see the audience shift as each group finished and a new group started. New parents on deck, ready to video.

Despite the lack of attention the youngsters receive, this does lead to some fantastic things. Like soccer in Brazil or chess in Russia, the huge group of youth participating will produce some exceptional standouts. We got to witness this in Tokyo in a Roppongi nightclub that could only seat 100 people with standing room for maybe another 100. Ondekoza, one of the top professional companies did a short performance that blew me away. Ondekoza takes people into the company when they are teenagers; "take in" means they move in with the group and live the life of a taiko monk. Waking early to run, practicing, eating breakfast, more practice, lunch, practice, practice, perform, repeat. Being able to watch performers so committed is a treat. Being able to do it in an intimate setting even better. And when they are brilliant it brings tears to my eyes.


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