Hello folks, Blaine here with a Safari park update!

It’s been several weeks now since we’ve started doing daily sets at the San Diego Zoo Safari park in Escondido.  It’s been a great challenge for newer members such as myself.  The audience size and age is different each day, so we’re really getting a feel for what parts of our show work with certain people.

 

The Safari Park stage

The Safari Park stage

 

Each day we meet at the “green room” (it’s a barn) and get changed and assign parts for our set.  Getting some stage time with new parts is great practice for new members!

 

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We’ve been playing classics like Expanding, Here we go now, and Many Sides.  But we also occasionally throw in some other fun stuff like Symmetrical Soundscapes and Shishimai.  Bryan did a very funny Shishimai that had the audience laughing, (and toddlers crying. . .)

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There are Hawks constantly circling the Safari Park.  They're onto us. . .

There are Hawks constantly circling the Safari Park. They’re onto us. . .

 

That’s all for now, thank you to the city of Escondido for being a great host!  This quaint town has awesome food and fun weekend fairs in the summer.  Be sure to stop by and visit the Safari Park before we’re gone!

 

-Blaine

 

 

World Taiko Gathering is just around the corner!  We’ve all been busy preparing for a great weekend of workshops and concerts here in Los Angeles.

Just one of our many undertakings was to construct a small army of practice okedo for our workshop participants.  After many trips to Home Depot and countless hours of arts and crafts fun, we’ve managed to build these just in time for WTG!  Much thanks to Karen Young and The Genki Spark for their guide to making katsugi okedo!

 

Okedo head taping

Okedo head taping 101

Tomomi cutting tape

Tomomi cutting tape

Jenny eating tape

Jenny eating tape

David measuring rope and Jen playing with fire!

David measuring rope and Jen playing with fire!

Audrey was promoted to tape manager

Audrey was promoted to tape manager

Making holes in the heads for the rope.  Chensy showing us how to hammer right!

Making holes in the heads for the rope. Chensy showing us how to hammer right!

Keiko showing us how to hammer left.  She earned MVP hammerer.

Keiko showing us how to hammer left!  She earned MVP hammerer.

Painted lids for body reinforcment

Painted lids for body reinforcement

Spray painting bandit

Spray painting bandit

Watching paint dry

Watching paint dry

Okedo party at home

Okedo party at home

Painting into the wee hours of the night

Painting into the wee hours of the night

Assembling all the pieces finally!

Assembling all the pieces finally!

The happy okedo family ready for WTG!

The happy okedo family waiting for YOU at World Taiko Gathering!

 

On June 26 Liz and I had the opportunity to be in a launch event located in Manhattan Beach for SKECHERS, a global leader in the lifestyle footwear industry.  The event was a fashion show turned party to feature the SKECHERS shoes.  We had the opportunity to open the show with our fierce taiko playing and shared the stage with an amazing hip hop dance crew.  Liz and I loved getting our hair and makeup done by the professionals, our cool outfits, and had lots of fun during the SKECHERS event! Thanks to everyone who made it possible :) Enjoy some pix of our experience below! 

Liz getting her makeup done. COOOOOL

Liz getting her makeup done. COOOOOL

 

Trying out our shoes and okedo for the gig

Trying out our shoes and okedo for the gig

  

MAKEUP DONE!

MAKEUP DONE!

Rocking our BOB shoes by SKECHERS, where they donate a pair of shoes to a child in need for every one purchased.  How cool!

Rocking our BOB shoes by SKECHERS, where they donate a pair of shoes to a child in need for every one purchased. How cool!

 

 

In just eleven short days, we will be presenting our TAIKO NATION concert series at the Japan America Theatre in Little Tokyo. When we first started planning the 2014 World Taiko Gathering, we also started brainstorming what the primary showcase concert would look like. The first step was to look at taiko groups and performers from all over the world and see how we might put together a “world taiko showcase.”

We found YouTube videos of taiko groups from all corners of the globe and started putting together a short list of international groups that we’d love to share the stage with. The U.K. taiko community has been growing in leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades, as we were fortunate to experience first-hand when TAIKOPROJECT performed at the U.K. Taiko Festival in 2011. It made complete sense to us to invite the host group from the festival, Kagemusha Taiko, out for their first mainstage performance in the U.S.

TAIKOPROJECT & Kagemusha Taiko members at the 2011 U.K. Taiko Festival

TAIKOPROJECT & Kagemusha Taiko members at the 2011 U.K. Taiko Festival

Scouring the web a bit more, we found there was a spectacular taiko group in Australia, appropriately titled TaikOz! A few emails later, the wheels were in motion to bring TaikOz out to LA on their very first US tour! We are super excited to showcase their unique Australian take on taiko at Taiko Nation.

TaikOz

TaikOz with mysteriously floating Anton Lock

Then as we were discussing the possibility of workshops from highly-esteemed KODO performers Eiichi Saito and Chieko Kojima with Donna from Kodo Arts Sphere America, she brought up the possibility of Eiichi and Chieko performing with our buddy (and former KODO member) Kaoru Watanabe, who currently plays taiko professionally in New York City. Can’t turn that down!

Eiichi Saito, Kaoru Watanabe, and Chieko Kojima

Eiichi Saito, Kaoru Watanabe, and Chieko Kojima – taiko legends!

Then to truly make it an international taiko showcase, we invited Grete Moortgat (Belgium), Lucas Muraguchi (Brazil), Isabel Romeo (Spain), and Michelle de Nevares (Argentina), to perform in our opening song for the concert. We were also introduced to a Japanese group called SenRai that was interested in coming out to LA to perform.

Grete, Lucas, Isabel, and Michelle!

Grete, Lucas, Isabel, and Michelle!

Finally, we thought it would be fantastic to end the show with a big bang with none other than the “father of American taiko,” Tanaka-sensei! Maz and I visited him in San Francisco and asked if he would be a part of the concert, and to our great happiness, he said yes!

Tanaka-sensei at the 2014 SF Cherry Blossom Festival

Tanaka-sensei at the 2014 SF Cherry Blossom Festival

We are just about throwing everything including the kitchen sink into this special concert series (Saturday, July 19, 8 pm, Sunday, July 20, 2 pm & 7 pm), but there are still some surprises I haven’t mentioned in this blog. Stay tuned for more exciting teasers, and if you haven’t gotten your tickets yet…well, what are you waiting for? Saturday is almost sold out, so you can grab some of the few remaining seats in the balcony, or check out the seat availability for the Sunday shows.

Check out ticket and seating map here! Hope to see you at one of the shows!

 

Amidst all the ongoing preparations for the upcoming World Taiko Gathering, the TAIKOPROJECT will be making an appearance at the San Diego Safari Park nightly this summer! On 6/20, Maz, Andrew, Janelle and I headed down to the Safari Park to help kick off their Summer Safari series. You can catch our 4-member mishmash twice every evening at 5:15pm and 6:15pm from now until August.

As each of us arrived in SD on Friday, we settled into the house that has been provided to us by the park. This will be the first time where TP members will have the chance to live together in a house setting like this. All we need to do is set up some cameras in the house and we may be able to capture a couple interesting episodes of Real World: TAIKOPROJECT. Get in the truth booth and tell us how you really feel.

Later that day, we headed out to the park for the opening day performance. The crowd was great and the kids always love getting a chance to play taiko too. WE also debuted our new costumes designed by Kiyomi! Check them out in the photos below. After the successful opening, we indulged ourselves with some Mexican food followed by a nice family grocery shopping experience. That evening we had some time to chill and enjoy each other’s company while watching some John Mulaney stand-up.

Our stint at the San Diego Safari Park may have just started, but we’ll keep you updated on our experiences as we go along. ‘Cause hey… we’re New In Town, but we’re staying a while :)

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Pre-show group photo

IMG_3219Sweatier post-show photo

 

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