Stanford Taiko Intensive: Day 2

Hachijo and odaiko with Yuta today! Yuta began with an introduction of the history and context of Hachijo, explaining his own path to studying this particular style. To give a brief summary, he talked about how Hachijo is rooted in the fact that anyone can play, not just young men, hence its prevalence in bars, hotels, and other public areas so everyone can share the joy of playing. On Hachijo Island, however, locals are generally eager to leave as soon as they can, with the attraction of pop culture and foreign customs outweighing that of folk customs and tradition. Yuta shared his passion for spreading appreciation for the Hachijo style beyond the island alone, in turn renewing locals’ interest and pride in their own culture. His words set the tone for the workshop, encouraging us to play in a spirit of gratitude and discovery.

When we approached the drum itself, Yuta explained that Hachijo is not so much taught as it is developed over time. Like the old joke about sculpting an elephant by chipping away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant, he says that he has developed his own style through being told what to avoid. Given the restrictions of our two-hour workshop, he nevertheless taught us general Hachijo tendencies so we have a foundation from which to build. We began by practicing strikes with accompanying arm movements, later put together in a pattern, though a soloist would usually improvise rather than playing set rhythms. We learned the uwauchi and shitauchi parts, soloist and jiuchi, respectively, as well as the jiuchi patterns of yukichi, shabataki, and honbataki. The workshop closed with runs of the song, with Yuta explaining that the focus should be on emoting deliberately and effectively rather than just playing technically proficiently. We talked about the arc of the song being such that the first body is quiet, the second tense, and the third “feeling good”, with the interpretation unique to each player. My own interpretation (taken with many grains of salt, as this is prior to discussing with anyone else and only my initial reaction) was heavily inspired by Stanford Taiko’s visit to Kinnara Taiko’s practice last night and Reverend Mas Kodani’s talk about Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. The first two bodies struck me as being dominated by the ego – quiet due to self-consciousness, with tension almost building due to the point that it stifles the playing itself. The third body, however, brings acceptance and release, with unbounded joy allowing the music to burst through and bring players and audience together.

We turned to odaiko in the afternoon, beginning with the basics of stance and grip. Yuta broke down the strike joint by joint, isolating particular movements for greater awareness of the whole. Holding certain positions also helped us feel precisely where tension should be at a given point in the strike. We played a series of two-minute drills, playing a particular pattern for two minutes; Yuta determined this time to be just long enough for people to get tired and have to cheat, forcing experimentation with different muscles. We also spent a short time exploring soloing with ma, with the idea being that the solo was the time during our drill where we had a chance to emote and create tension.

Thanks to Asano Taiko US and LATI, we were also able to host a jam session tonight, with representation from Jishin Taiko (CSUN), Senryu Taiko (UC Riverside), ProTa (Progressive Taiko), and community members. It was great seeing everybody and making music together, and we hope everyone had fun!