Hey, Hi, and Hello Taikoproject Blog Readers!

Welcome to our blog and if you are a new comer we are glad that you are here! If you are a returner, welcome back and thanks for checking in to see what TAIKOPROJECT has been up to! July has been a very busy month with daily performances at the San Diego Safari Park as well as hosting the 2014 World Taiko Gathering in Little Tokyo. Here is a little mix of blog and vlog from the 2014 World Taiko Gathering! Hope you guys enjoy and be sure to like and subscribe to our new vlog channel, “TPtaikoTV”!

The 2014 World Taiko Gathering was held on July 17th -20th and we hosted participants and workshop leaders from all around the world for a weekend filled with taiko workshops, discussion sections, and performances. We had attendees from Japan, Brazil, Belgium, Argentina, Australia, Spain, New Zealand, Canada, and the U.K. and we all came together in LA to learn and better understand each other’s taiko styles and gain a sense of international taiko community. It was fantastic meeting so many of you during the WTG weekend and we hope you had an amazing time! So let’s break down the weekend.

Thursday July 17, 2014, the first day of the World Taiko Gathering.   Registration was busy handing out registration packets to all of the attendees and workshop leaders, and in the evening we held a welcome reception for our guests. At the welcome reception we had a joint performance of “Ashura” by three local taiko groups, Kinnara Taiko, Bombu Taiko and Chikara Taiko, as well as a “How long you have been playing taiko” Jam session. It was great to see and meet everyone and reconnect with people in the taiko community. Thanks to all the SoCal taiko groups who brought food to share for our potluck! We couldn’t have fed everyone without your help so thank you for pitching in! You Rock!

Friday July 18, 2014. We kicked off the morning with a very educational opening session where there was a performance of “Lion Chant” along with presentations by representatives from around the world to talk about taiko in their respective regions. It was so fascinating to learn about how taiko came to be in other countries. After the opening session it was time to start the first round of workshops. In the evening we held a free outdoor performance outside of the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) called “Lunar Jam”. It was fun to watch groups from near and far perform! Kudos Lunar Jam performers!!

Saturday July 20, 2014. Saturday was the big day for workshops so the equipment team worked really hard to make sure drums were in the right place at the right time all day long. At lunch time we had two “Nooner Jam” performance locations, outside of the JANM and in the Japanese Village Plaza, so it was hard to miss that there was a taiko function going on since everywhere you turned there was taiko. Great work Nooner Jam-ers! Later that evening was the first Taiko Nation performance at the Aratani/Japanese American Theater where we featured groups from around the world to perform. There were performances by Taro Kobayashi (Tokyo, Japan), SenRai (Sendai, Japan), Kagemusha Taiko (U.K.), TaikOz (Sydney, Australia), Chieko Kojima, Eiichi Saito (Sado, Japan) and Kaoru Watanabe (New York), Kenny Endo (Hawaii), TAIKOPROJECT (LA) and we had some international guest performers in “The Stroll” Grete Moortgat (Belgium), Lucas Muraguchi (Brazil), Michelle de Nevares (Argentina), and Isabel Romeo (Spain). Lets not forget the amazing finale performance of “Tsunami” lead by grand master Seiichi Tanaka (father of American Taiko) from San Francisco Taiko Dojo. The energy was great and the audience was amazing, it was truly an incredible experience to share the stage with so many talented and accomplished taiko players.

Sunday July 20, 2014. The last day of WTG had come too soon. The morning started early with a “Matsuri Crashers” where battlers went head to head to bust out their best Matsuri solos and the audience would declare the winner. Then it was time for the closing session where we had a raffle with many wonderful prizes and members of the taiko community spoke about the hopes and future of World Taiko Gatherings to come. Then we closed out the day with a matinee and evening performance of Taiko Nation. Once all the equipment was packed, we finally were able to call it a day and retire ourselves from the taiko packed weekend.

We need to send out a huge thank you to all of the workshop leaders, volunteers, performers and participants from near and far for making the 2014 World Taiko Gathering such a huge success. It really is special to be a part of this international taiko community and we are so grateful for all the support. To all of the new friends made at the WTG, let’s keep the “Taiko Magic” alive and strong for years to come and let us never forget the 2014 World Taiko Gathering that brought us together. See you next time!

 

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!

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