With the school show season beginning anew, TaikoProject members (five of us, anyway) found ourselves in Huntington Beach this morning to perform three shows at Hawes Elementary School. The students and teachers were great audiences and spirited taiko players, too! I overheard one student say to her teacher “you were really great!” after her teacher assisted us with our show.
To the faculty, staff, and PTA of Hawes Elementary — thanks for having us! And as one young lady said to us before we left, “see you next time!”
Obligatory cast picture. The photographer has really captured the essence of each member in this shot.
It is with much gratitude that I post this blog about TAIKOPROJECT’s participation in the JAILA Fall 2015 program, administered by The Japan Foundation. The experiences we had on this tour were truly amazing. We made dozens of new friends and reconnected with old friends, and probably took more photos with audience members than we have on any tour in our entire 15-year history! Here’s a little synopsis of our whirlwind tour–
Aug. 17, 2015
Today, we headed out from LAX to our first stop, Buenos Aires, Argentina! I had to mentally prepare myself to be the third wheel to Maz and Courtney for the next two weeks. Or maybe, Courtney had to mentally prepare herself to be the third wheel to me and Maz. In any case, off we went!
Aug. 18, 2015
Leaving the plane, we went through customs/immigration and to our awaiting vehicle. We were taken to our hotel for a short rest before heading to the Embassy office for a short rehearsal with Sandra Vazquez, a local singer and harmonica player, with whom we would collaborate for the next day’s concert. After a successful rehearsal (Sandra was great to work with), we decided to make a surprise visit to see members of Mukaito Taiko, who were having rehearsal later in the evening (and whom we had met a couple of months earlier because they came to LA for our Summer Intensive).
Heading to Mukaito’s rehearsal space
Kind of looked like the movie “Saw”
Mukaito practicing Omiyage
TP Members enjoying some Patagonia beer
Pizza with Mukaitos!
Aug. 19, 2015
In the morning, we were picked up and taken to Moron–pronounced “Moh-Rohn,” not “More-on” (about 45 minutes outside of Buenos Aires) for the day’s residency activities. We met with members of Buenos Aires Taiko Dojo, Mukaito Taiko, Shinzui Daiko, and a few other local taiko groups. We led an afternoon workshop and then after some discussion with the Embassy staff, decided it made the most sense for us to perform an informal educational concert for the general public, modeled after our school shows in the U.S. At the end of our presentation, we played three collaborative songs, “The Stroll” with Buenos Aires Taiko Dojo, “Tsunami” with Shinzui Daiko, and “Omiyage” with Mukaito Taiko. Thank you to all of you for your hard work learning the songs!
Here are some videos from our collaborations with the three Argentinian taiko groups:
TP + Buenos Aires Taiko Dojo perform “The Stroll”
TP + Shinzui Daiko perform “Tsunami”
TP + Mukaito Taiko perform “Omiyage”
Aug. 20, 2015
We arrived at the theatre and coordinated our sound and lighting design after some tri-lingual discussion in Japanese, English, and Spanish. It was a full house, a very responsive audience. the performance went off without a hitch (despite a raked stage), and our collaboration with Sandra Vazquez was well-received. Afterwards, we greeted the audience in the lobby and took lots of photos with them and signed autographs. Afterwards, we had a quick dinner with the Embassy staff and then went to a fantastic tango show with amazing music and some fabulous dancers.
Bryan & Maz play Symmetrical
Maz and Courtney in Shototsu
The TP Trio plays Here We Go Now!!
Here’s a GoPro video of our collaboration with Sandra, an awesome Argentinian singer and harmonica player!
Aug. 21, 2015
Today was our first major travel transition day, taking all our equipment and luggage from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Asuncion, Paraguay. Noemi and Ezequiel escorted us to the airport and helped facilitate our excess baggage logistics. The entire Buenos Aires Embassy staff was fantastic and at the time we were worried that they had set the bar high for the rest of the Embassies, but later we would discover that they were all supportive, friendly, helpful, and caring. Upon arrival in Asuncion, we were met by Yamagata-san, Kojima-san, and Ishida-san and walked through customs/immigration, and taken to our hotel. We had a quick rest and then were taken to the Ambassador’s residence where he conducted a tea ceremony for us and hosted a dinner in our honor. All the guests and the staff were extremely gracious and it was a little weird for us to be treated so nicely, but it was very much appreciated. Maz mentioned during the dinner that it was my birthday, so the kitchen staff kindly obliged me with a birthday candle on my dessert, and the guests sang Happy Birthday to me in English and then in Spanish. It was a birthday to remember!
Argentina tour leg done! Thank you Noemi and Ezequiel!
Dinner at the Ambassador’s
Aug. 22, 2015
Today we headed to the Centro Paraguayo Japones for our technical rehearsal and concert program (which was a full house!). We also had a short rehearsal for the collaboration with the National Ballet Company of Paraguay, who had choreographed a dance to our song “Expanding.” We also met members of local group Taiko Gloria, who lent us their drums for our concert. Little did we know the drums were absolutely huge, so proportionally we felt like little kids playing on adult taiko. It was another very responsive and full house for the concert and we spent a good amount of time taking photos and signing autographs for audience members (mostly Taiko Gloria members)! It’s been great to have such a warm response from all our South American audiences so far! After the concert, Yamagata-san was kind enough to escort us to dinner in downtown Asuncion.
TAIKOPROJECT + Ballet Nacional de Paraguay “Expanding”
The ginormous drums of Taiko Gloria
TP + Taiko Gloria – Post-concert
Beer in South America was always served up in an ice bucket, so that it stays cold as you drink it. Take note, North America, take note.
Aug. 23, 2015
In the morning, we packed up everything from our hotel and headed to SGI-Paraguay to conduct workshops for Taiko Gloria and students from the local Japanese school. Since we had some extra time, we held a Q&A with Taiko Gloria and learned more about their taiko-making techniques and offered advice as to how to improve their drumhead-skinning greatly and make their drumheads last much longer. They were an energetic, enthusiastic group with a great fervor and passion for taiko! Somehow they were informed as well that it was recently my birthday, so the group sang Happy Birthday to me in Guarani (the indigenous language of Paraguay). It was very sweet of them! After the workshops, we had lunch and then headed off on a 6-hour drive through the Paraguayan countryside to Encarnacion for our next tour stop. It was our first time being escorted to a performance with an armed police officer (but I guess it is fairly normal when traveling between major cities in Paraguay). We arrived in Encarnacion in the evening and were greeted by Office of Consul Director, Keiko Ishihara, who kindly escorted us to dinner and facilitated check-in at our hotel.
TP + Taiko Gloria – Workshop Day
TP with our driver and official police escort!
Aug. 24, 2015
Today we headed out in the morning to Pirapo, a Japanese colony that was founded several decades ago in the middle of the Paraguayan wilderness. Upon arrival, we toured the facilities and saw their community center, museum, and even their sumo ring! We met some of the members of the Pirapo Taiko Hozonkai, and prepared for our concert. After the concert, the community hosted a reception for us and then we headed back to Encarnacion.
Aug. 25, 2015
The morning started with radio and television appearances to promote the evening’s concert, followed by lunch with Ishihara-san at a local Japanese buffet restaurant. After lunch, we visited with our opening act, the youth players from the Encarnacion Taiko Club, and conducted a short workshop. After selecting some drums that we would borrow for the concert, we loaded in our equipment to the theatre and worked through lighting and sound logistics with the theatre staff. That night, we played for a full house, again a very enthusiastic audience, and took photos with audience members and signed autographs onstage. After the concert, we went out to dinner with local taiko leaders, community members, and Ishihara-san.
TP & the Encarnacion Taiko Club!
TP Trio at the end of the show (and Meii)
Aug. 26, 2015
This was the toughest travel day of the tour, but we made it through! First, we drove six hours back to Asuncion from Encarnacion, unloaded our equipment and then rested at the hotel for a few hours. Yamagata-san from the Embassy and his wife were kind enough to help us do some laundry and host a home-cooked meal at their home for us while we waited for our late flight! We are planning to send them some special omiyage from Trader Joe’s as a thank you (and because TJ’s is his wife’s favorite grocery store in the US). Then Ishida-san took us to the airport at midnight where we waited to board our 2 am flight to Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Home-cooked dinner with the Yamagatas! (and Ishida)
Aug. 27, 2015
Once we arrived at the Sao Paulo Airport, we started our sleepy 6-hour layover. We could barely stay awake even with some caffeinated assistance from the local Starbucks. But we made it through and got onto our flight to Salvador. Upon arrival in Salvador, we were met by Leo and Fuuka from Grupo Wado, and taken wtih all our equipment to our hotel for the remainder of our tour. This evening, we met members from Grupo Wado and ANISA (the local Japanese Association) kindly hosted a home-cooked meal for us at their headquarters. After the dinner, we headed to a drumming concert with the members of Grupo Wado.
Hanging with Grupo Wado!
Aug. 28, 2015
We had a rare free morning today, so Leo and Fuuka were kind enough to take us sight-seeing. We visited the historic district of Salvador, called Pelourinho, made famous as the home of Olodum and where Michael Jackson once filmed a portion of one of his music videos. We also tried Bahina cuisine, including acaraje and a number of stewed dishes. It was great! Then we headed to the festival site to rehearse with Grupo Wado and conduct a workshop with them. We met Recife Embassy Director Hitomi Sekiguchi, who then hosted a delicious dinner for us at a local restaurant.
Visiting Pelourinho with Leo & Fuuka
Dinner with Grupo Wado, Sekiguchi-san from the Recife Embassy, and Lika-san from the Bon Odori Festival
Aug. 29, 2015
On the morning of the first day of the Bon Odori Festival, there was a huge downpour and many wondered if anyone would attend the festival. However, the rain eventually stopped and while it was wet, the festival went on and thousands came out! We performed a short set and conducted a workshop for the general public. We also collaborated with Grupo Wado and Grupo Sansey on a joint song called “Shikisai,” and even jammed with the world-famous drumming group Olodum on three songs to close out the evening!
Onstage at Bon Odori Salvador
TP & Grupo Wado
Aug. 30, 2015
Today, we performed a longer set, which was a little more difficult because of the high heat and humidity levels, but we managed to put on a good show. The coordinator of the festival, Lika Kawano, and Embassy representative Hitomi Sekiguchi, were very attentive to taking care of us, so we are very grateful for their care and hospitality. We were also very grateful to Grupo Wado, and in order to show our support for them as an emerging, young taiko group, we decided to gift them two of our main percussion instruments, a set of chappa (small cymbals), and an atarigane (small brass gong). They cried a little, and were grateful for our generosity and our desire to support and inspire them to keep growing in artistry and organization.
Aug. 31, 2015
On our last day on tour, we were able to finally do some significant omiyage shopping for our friends and family back home. Fuuka and Leo from Grupo Wado were kind enough to take us shopping all day long and treated us to a Brazilian lunch for our final meal! We arrived at the airport in Salvador, checked in all our equipment (all items made it through the entire tour without getting damaged or lost!), and headed back to LA.
Ice cream to end the tour!
Sept. 1, 2015
After a quick lay-over in Miami, we returned home to LAX to conclude the tour! Otsukaresama deshita! Thank you to everyone who made our tour possible!!
On Wednesday September 30, 2015, TAIKOPROJECT performed at Washington Elementary School! We had a warm welcome from the staff and even had some delicious snacks prepared for us~. Yum!
We had three shows, each one a mix of different grades. They were all wonderful and full of energy when they came up for the student participation section of our program. It was a great start to our day~. Thank you Washington Elementary School! We had a blast!
TAIKOPROJECT, Bombu, and Kitsune all performed at the Monterey Park Sakura Matsuri on April 18, 2015. It is a very delayed post…BUT nonetheless, it was a very memorable performance! I apologize for taking so long to keep all of you updated about this performance.
It was a nice sunny day at Monterey Park with many familiar smiling faces at the festival. It was my first time performing with Bombu and Kitsune so I was very excited. We were able to have fun practicing before the performance in the shade of some trees backstage which served as nice bonding time between groups. There were many friends and family present so it was great to have the support from the audience and from the sides of the stage from our other groups. All groups had lots of energy despite the heat from the sunny weather. After the performance, we all had enjoyed refreshing cold bottles of water backstage. There was a lot equipment to pack away and was slowed down from all the grass that kept sticking to all of our things but it was much easier to handle with all the helping hands from each group It’s always nice to have joint performances with our other groups~. Thank you Bombu and Kitsune for sharing this wonderful memory with us!
On July 11, 2015 we had a small cast head up to Sacramento for the Sacramento Asian Sports Foundation Fundraiser Dinner. The cast consisted of Maz, Courtney, Jen, Liz, Keiko, Doug, Kelvin and Blaine. This performance was a lot of fun because we all got the chance to challenge ourselves and perform new parts. A special thanks goes out to my Uncle Steve who always asks us to perform and it is nice to get the chance to perform for my extended family who lives in Sacramento. Two years ago, TAIKOPROJECT was invited to perform for the same event and it was very nostalgic to return with some of the cast that came up last time too. Fun Fact: Last time we performed in Sacramento for the SASF, our cast included all five of the newest trainees at the time! They grow up so fast! Haha! There are some awesome photos taken from a local Sacramento Magazine be sure to check them out here! http://www.sacmag.com/Snapshots/June-2015/Sacramento-Asian-Sports-Foundations-Annual-Benefit-Dinner-Show/
Here is a vlog from the show and we hope you enjoy it!