“Kyodo Taiko brings the art of Japanese drumming to Bishop”
During its early days in ancient Japan, taiko drumming was mainly for ceremonial and religious purposes, used to beckon rain for a bountiful harvest or to chase away pests. It was also used as musical accompaniment for traditional Japanese theater, but it did not become the art form we know today until 1951, when jazz drummer Daihachi Oguchi created kumi daiko, or “group taiko”, leading to today’s nearly 500 performing taiko groups across the United States.
Kyodo Taiko (響童太鼓) is the first collegiate taiko group to form in North America, founded in 1990 by Mark Honda under UCLA’s Nikkei Student Union (NSU). Comprised entirely of college students, Kyodo Taiko is in a perpetual state of turnover and transition, with no fixed sensei. As most new members have no prior experience, it is a priority that all members cooperatively learn the different aspects and traditions of taiko, along with those of the group, in a very short period of time. In a fast-paced, peer-driven environment, there is a sense of freedom to experiment and explore new ideas and aspects of taiko with little reservation; nearly all of Kyodo Taiko’s pieces are either written or arranged by its members, with new ones created every year.
Kyodo performs for the UCLA and Southern California Japanese American communities every year, including UCLA basketball halftime shows, addresses by UCLA chancellor Gene D. Block, the Monterey Park Cherry Blossom Festival, and annual Nisei Week festivities in Little Tokyo. In recent years, they have performed at a Clippers Halftime Show, collaborated with the dance group Culture Shock LA, and were featured in musician LP’s “Tokyo Sunrise” music video.
Kyodo has two meanings – one being “family, “ and the other, literally, “loud children.” Striving to live up to its name, Kyodo Taiko functions as a family or loud children, sharing the joy and spirit of taiko with more and more of the surrounding community each year.
Once her older brother started playing taiko at UC San Diego, Kendall Tani, a Mammoth local, became interested in the art form and searched for a group when she started at UCLA four years ago. Since joining Kyodo Taiko, she has become an active member in the California taiko and Japanese American communities, performing as well as volunteering throughout both to educate and spread, as well as learn about and explore, the art of taiko and Japanese American culture and history. Her parents, Robbie and Roxanne Tani, own and operate Yamatani Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar, now in its 11th year of business.
While Kyodo Taiko has been performing at the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage at the Manzanar National Historic Site just outside of Lone Pine for over ten years, the Tani family has been hoping to bring taiko to Bishop for the past four years, though the time and circumstances have never been right.
Finally, with the full sponsorship of the City Bishop and the support and co-sponsorship of Yamatani, Bishop Chamber, and the Inyo Council for the Arts, Kyodo Taiko will bring the energy and excitement of taiko to the Eastern Sierras in an hour-long performance of songs from their repertoire.
Join them on Saturday, October 1, at 4:30 PM at the bandstand in Bishop City Park for a free exciting and educational cultural experience, and don’t forget to bring your own blankets and chairs to sit on the grass!