When I gave lecture on North American Taiko to college students, I didn’t have a real taiko. It would be nice to show the object, even wear a happi; without the drum and fancy costume, may one still demonstrate taiko? What actually makes taiko “taiko”? The player, or the instrument?
After my fellowship at the Taiko Center of the Pacific, life continues to push for reinvention. Rather than performing, I realized my training has potential for another path; I was to be experimental, to engage taiko (as an art form) without its quintessential eye-catching instruments.
Anyone can play a drum, just bang the head. Any western percussionist can play rhythm correctly on a taiko drum, it does not make them a taiko player. Taiko, as an complicated art form, involves history, culture, tradition, style, performance practice, aesthetic, attitude, physical and mental training, and so on. Therefore, even without a pretty-looking drum, there are tons to talk about and show.
Since Kenny Endo sensei focuses on the teaching of Sukeroku style, I have come to enjoy playing naname. The slanted style is the hardest to imitate with tire drum because it requires stable angle and height. This is why my training experience is critical for this project, for I must understand the necessary features to design an effective practice drum.
Practice instruments are never meant to replace the real thing; they are just practical enough due to the circumstances. Most cannot afford a personal taiko for individual practice, nor have the space to store. Tire drums set by beginners are mostly wrong, which will cause ineffective practice and even injuries. There will be compromises, but isn’t not practicing the ultimate compromises?