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Humans of Taikokoro

A monthly piece introducing a Taikokoro member

- Melanie -

Hi, everyone! I’m Melanie Taylor. 

I‘m a Japanese-to-English translator and interpreter who specialises in taiko-related content. I’m one of the only interpreters I know who brings earplugs to work. I live in my hometown, Auckland, New Zealand, and I joined Taikokoro when it launched as a Rinjin member.

I started playing taiko in 2001 when I was teaching English on the JET Programme in Ehime, Japan. There was a newly-formed group in the village where I lived, and when I was invited to give it a go, I said yes because I needed a hobby and I wanted to make some local friends. Joining that group changed my life. Instead of staying in Japan for 2 or 3 years as I originally planned, I decided to stay longer and keep working on my Japanese and to keep playing taiko. After volunteering at Earth Celebration, the annual music festival hosted by Kodo —one of Japan’s leading taiko groups— I was offered a job as staff with the ensemble. They needed an in-house translator and an international tour manager, which was a big change from my teaching experience. I decided to take the plunge and moved to Sado Island to work for Kodo in 2007. I was based there for 6.5 years, and 14 years on, I still handle their translation and English PR. While I lived on Sado, I played taiko sporadically due to my very irregular schedule. I got to play when I was staffing Kodo Juku workshops, and in a Hachijo Daiko circle that ran once or twice a month. During my years of touring, I traveled around the world with Kodo and our truck full of taiko to give performances throughout Europe, South America, Australia, and Japan. I

 have a lot of taiko travel stories, so feel free to ask me about those over a drink in person some time.

So how did I find out about Taikokoro? Through Ayako Tsunazawa, who I was introduced to through Kodo during our 2009 Australia Tour with Taikoz. Later, another plot twist, I ended up living in Melbourne. From 2013 to 2016, I played taiko very occasionally with Australia Miyake Kai, Shome Shome Club, and Dokkoisa Wachi Kai around my busy Master of Interpreting and Translation Studies coursework at Monash University. During my time in Melbourne, I clocked up a lot of hours interpreting at taiko workshops and Miyake Taiko Intensive Workshops. I spent more time talking about taiko than playing it. But in recent years, before COVID anyway, I’ve been playing Miyake Taiko in Tokyo during business trips there. It’s been great to start playing again. I’ve been back to Australia to catch up with friends, interpret at taiko workshops, and attend taiko concerts. I hope to be back over there again soon to see everyone.

I love how taiko brings people together. The sound connects people and spreads joy for one, and when people play taiko, it opens their hearts, resets their minds, and gives them an energy boost. I think it’s a great form of physical and mental therapy for people who play it and people who hear it alike.

One of my best taiko memories is when I was on tour with Kodo in Montreal, where we were performing the taiko music for Kaguyahime—The Moon Princess, a work that combines ballet with Western percussion, taiko, and Japanese court music. I was sitting at the back of the theater, near the lighting operator, when the house lights dimmed for the second act to begin. The odaiko (big drum) appeared on stage, lit up to look like a full moon and the audience drew breath. A Kodo performer, Eiichi Saito, appeared, steadied himself, and beat the drum with a mighty stroke. Boooommmmm. A low, quiet howl echoed out from deep within the guide dog lying on the floor, at his visually-impaired owner’s feet, three seats down from me. The golden lab couldn’t see the stage, but that sound had unleashed a primal reaction that he couldn’t hold back. His owner gave him a reassuring pat and I clamped both hands over my mouth to hold back the giggles. When I hear the first strike of the big drum, I often remember that moment.

 

  1. Would you rather have unlimited sushi or unlimited tacos for life and why?
    Tacos. You can fit more avocado into tacos and no one bats an eyelid when you load them up with cheese.
  1. What is your most embarrassing favourite song?
    Baby Shark. It’s a favourite for breaking the ice with little kids. It gets people dancing, and it has a good beat. And you can make it as long or short as you need it to be.
  1. What is the dumbest way you’ve been injured (taiko or non-taiko related)?
    I dislocated my knee when I reached down to pick up a receipt of the floor. And I broke stuff inside it when I tried to put it back in myself. Apparently you should never attempt this. Never. Always seek help from a medical professional.

Humans of Taikokoro

A monthly piece introducing a Taikokoro member

- Jasmin -
Jasmin

My name is Jasmin.

I’m a Software Developer and I build and maintain customer communication applications for a company based in Perth, so I work remotely from home. 

I discovered taiko about six years ago while I was still living in Perth. I attended a summer Japanese Festival and watched an amazing ‘Taiko On’ performance. I instantly fell in love with the beauty and energy that emanates from the Japanese drums. I never knew you could actually play songs with just drums! 

Later that year, I moved to Melbourne and guess what was the first thing I looked for? Taiko classes! I joined Rindo classes and about a year later, I decided to join Australia Miyake Kai after seeing them perform several times in some festivals around Melbourne. I was a little hesitant to try it at first because Miyake style seemed difficult to play and physically demanding but the powerful pose of the performers and the strong drumbeat motivated me to learn how to look and play like them. 

I was lucky enough to have joined AMK just before one of the Tsumura family workshops so I basically learnt the basics from the senseis themselves. The following year, I traveled to Japan and was very fortunate to be invited to play along with ‘Miyake-Jima Geino Doushi-Kai’ at the Otoro festival in Iruma. We played Miyake from midday to sunset while walking the streets of Iruma town, this is so far the most amazing and rewarding experience taiko-wise I’ve ever had.

I became a Taikokoro member when it was established in 2019 and have been practising not only Miyake, but also Wachi and Hachijo daiko and have learnt a lot from different teachers in the diverse taiko workshops organised by Taikokoro. I’m looking forward to continuing practising and improving my taiko drumming with Taikokoro!

 

  1. Would you rather have unlimited sushi or unlimited tacos for life and why?
    – Unlimited sushi, they’re delicious and there are many varieties to choose from.

     

     

  2. What is your most embarrassing favourite song?
    – Hhmm… I can’t say I have an embarrassing favourite song but to betray my favourite music genre, I like to listen to Lady Gaga.
  3. What is the dumbest way you’ve been injured?
    – I have an ongoing ankle issue, due to stretching of my foot ligaments while sleeping!

Humans of Taikokoro

A monthly piece introducing a Taikokoro member

- Shin -

Hello everyone, I’m Shin.

I’m sure some people have been in a long lockdown, but are you all doing well?  

I’ve been a member of Taikokoro since its establishment, but I don’t play taiko. 
My occupation is a chef and I have been cooking Japanese food for over 30 years.

I think that the traditional drums (Miyake Taiko, Wachi Daiko and Hachjijo/Kanju Daiko) that Taikokoro is working on have different charms such as behaviour, rhythm, costumes, teamwork, people, sounds and I like them a lot.  Although Taikokoro members may not be aware of them, the team has been doing wonderful activities.

There are great Taiko performers beginner to advanced players in Australia, Japan and all over the world and there are various beautiful Taiko styles.

Taikokoro has invited a variety of Taiko performers to learn together with the Australian Taiko community – not only taiko skills but also about conduct, how to handle taiko and bachi, memorial service for Taiko bachi etc, etc.

I believe that those Taiko performers also learned a lot from the Australian Taiko community and reflected it in their activities.

More importantly, Taikokoro is very important as a team that belongs to our multiculturalism in Australia. Also, all of us could be a part of the histories of Miyake Taiko, Wachi Daiko and Hachijo/Kanju Daiko in Japan.

Therefore, we are valuable and also fun people.

The best memory of taiko I had was the taiko tour where we all went to Tokyo → Sado → Hachijojima → Aogashima → Wachi. There were many happenings.  I was impressed by the wonderful Taiko people who love drums that everyone enjoys and entertains.

I know this lockdown period is giving us lots of stress. But, stay positive! I am looking forward to seeing you in person soon.

Would you rather have unlimited sushi or unlimited tacos for life and why?
→ Sushi, as I am a sushi machine!

What is your most embarrassing favourite song?
→ Merry-go-round song.  My mum wanted to take photos of me on the merry-go-round, but I was so embarrassed to ride on it because it is for little kids.  When this battle with my mum was happening, this song was on….. 

What is the dumbest way you’ve been injured?
→ I have been in an ambulance 9 times so far.  5 of them are injury related.

Humans of Taikokoro

A monthly piece introducing a Taikokoro member

- Irene -

My name is Irene.

In real life I do IT support – not exactly THE most creative outlet in the world.  I also happen to be one of the committee members of Taikokoro, currently holding the position of Vice President.  Although a rather important sounding title, it’s not as terrifying as it sounds – I do a bit of everything, stepping when needed, including managing the website, doing a bit of social media and organising performances.

Growing up, the sum total of my music experience was the recorder, some keyboard lessons and a whole lot of karaoke. Then in 2008 I went on a holiday with a friend to Morocco. We spent a night under the stars in the Sahara with some nomads, who proceeded to pull out some drums and other musical instruments and played for us. It was captivating and I was hooked.

When I got back to Melbourne, I signed up for my first djembe class. About a year and a half later, I also started learning the duns.

In 2010, while I was madly running around absorbing all things drum related, I went to see a phenomenal taiko (Japanese drumming) concert, and decided that I needed to try that as well – so I found Toshi and Rindo. 

After a trip to a Tsumura sensei Miyake workshop in Sydney, I became one of the initial members of Australia Miyake Kai.

10+ years later and I have stopped African drumming and gone 100% taiko!

I very much enjoy the community aspect of drumming and the people I drum with have become almost a second family – you can see my Tuesday class family in the photos indulging my love of costumes, dressed as koalas! 

I enjoy sharing the music with the general public as well, and love playing community gigs ranging from fetes to festivals – anywhere that people can really get involved and enjoy the drumming.

The best memory I have of playing Miyake is getting the chance to play at Chris’s wedding, and then attempting to play the shinobue for Wachi taiko after beer – not so successful!

Hopefully the future will bring more of the same drumming opportunities that I’ve been so lucky to be a part of!

  1. Would you rather have unlimited sushi or unlimited tacos for life and why?
    Unlimited tacos for life.  They have melted cheese.
  1. What is your most embarrassing favourite song?
    Without doubt – Don’t Stop Believing by Journey – and belting it out at karaoke
  1. What is the dumbest way you’ve been injured (taiko or non-taiko related)?
    Doing a walk in high school up and back down Mt Kosciusko, and then tripping over in the car park before getting on the bus back – badly spraining my ankle.

Humans of Taikokoro

A monthly piece introducing a Taikokoro member

- Cecilia -
Cecilia

My name is Cecilia.

I’ve been a Taikokoro Rinjin member ever since it first started – not sure how long that’s been because I’m really bad at remembering stuff like that. Like when I’m asked how long I’ve been playing taiko – I wouldn’t have a clue! But I do remember how I started taking an interest in taiko.

I was first introduced to taiko through a work colleague who’d invited me to a taiko concert. The concert was none other than Eitetsu Hayashi at Sydney Town Hall. My mind was blown! So, I gave it try and never really stopped. I must admit that most of the credit goes to Taikoz and Ian Cleworth for creating a great place for me to learn and enjoy taiko.

There are many reasons why I enjoy taiko. I like taiko because I find taiko challenging and yet intriguing because there are so many different facets to taiko – it kind of pulls you in.  I don’t have a favorite style – I like them all. I continue to play taiko, though, because of the taiko community – I am grateful that I’ve been able to meet and play taiko with many people from across Australia and the globe. I’m thankful to Taikokoro for bringing the taiko community even closer together.

I recall participating in a taiko camp in Japan where I learnt a version of Miyake-style taiko and having to hold a pose for what felt like 2 hours (in reality, it might have been 2 minutes). At night, as the group sat in the rotenburo (females only) nursing our sore muscles and blistered hands, we all agreed that “we work to fund our taiko habits”.

So, what work do I do to help fund my taiko habits? I’m a Business Analyst, helping companies implement systems, policies… anything. But Taiko still infiltrates as I’m caught writing taiko music in my notebook during meetings or tapping taiko rhythms at my desk.

The best memory I have of taiko would be winning the World Taiko Competition in Tokyo as a member of Taiko No Wa. The blood, sweat and tears paid off… literally. To my TNW peeps – thanks for the unforgettable experience.

My fondest memory of Taiko, however, was attending an Art Lee taiko camp, meeting Daihachi Oguchi and other taiko players from around the world, spending Obon at the river watching fireflies; then to Sado for Earth Celebration where we had a private performance of Ondeko in a tent and received a lock of the Oni’s hair. Aah, the sweet memories of Sado in summer! Such is Taiko Life!

  1. Would you rather have sushi or tacos for life?
    Sushi. There’s no elegant way of eating a taco.
  2. What is your most embarrassing favorite song?
    Run, Rabbit, Run – (1939) – They don’t make music like they use to.
  3. What is the dumbest way you’ve been injured?
    Breaking my ankle during Shot-Put trials for the Combined School Competition in High School. Needless to say, I did not make it into the Shot-Put team.

Humans of Taikokoro

A monthly piece introducing a Taikokoro member

- Aki -

My name is Aki. In my real life, I am an Executive Assistant for the Executive Director at a global logistics company. When I am not drumming, I can make myself look serious and hardworking in a corporate world!

I grew up in Tokyo and lived there until I finished my Uni and moved to Melbourne in 1994. As a kid, Japanese traditional music never drew my attention. Rather, my choice was playing the drums in a girls band at high school (thought I was cool but wasn’t ….).

Around 1997, my flatmate then asked me to join Rindo with her, but I wasn’t so sure about it because Taiko seemed out-of-date and daggy, which were proven wrong and I found learning Taiko is so much fun! Luckily, Toshi just started Rindo with not even 20 students, which gave me a lot of performance opportunities at festivals, events and concerts for many years.

My other music experience is Ukulele. I wasn’t very good at it, but Chris, my first audience, could tell at least which song I was playing for him.

Ayako is another key person in my Taiko life. She actually introduced me to the Tsumura family in Tokyo long before Australia Miyake Kai was established. I was shocked at students over there staring at themselves in the mirror to check their postures and movements, some even looked so much in love with themselves!! Never thought I would become one of those in the future.

Sounds a bit exaggerated, but the trip to Hachijo Island in 2015 has marked the beginning of a new era for my taiko life. Initially I was freaked out seeing locals in three generations improvising naturally in a laid-back fashion but it is so addictive! This experience brought me back there twice in 2016 & 2019 to participate in 24hour challenge. Hope I am able to visit them again soon!

It is very hard to choose but one of my best taiko memories is performing with the Tsumura family in 40 degrees at Melbourne Summer Festival in 2014. It was extremely hot and I was also too nervous to play Ura after Kaz sensei, so Chie, a veteran member from Tokyo, poked me in my back so I could get up and go!

1. Would you rather have unlimited sushi or unlimited tacos for life and why?
I definitely choose unlimited Sushi over Tacos because Sushi has more variety than Tacos.

2. What is your most embarrassing favourite song?
My most embarrassing favourite song is Boom Boom (Let’s go back to my room) by Paul Lekakis.

3. What is the dumbest way you’ve been injured?
Slipped in a shower and knocked the soap dish with my kneecap which resulted in slashing my knee about 3cm. I ended up waiting for hours at Royal Melbourne Hospital before getting stitches and returned home at dawn.