Hello friends! This past weekend, Kazan spent two days at UCI for the 21st Intercollegiate Taiko Invitationals, hosted by UCI’s Jodaiko! It was a weekend filled with drumming, learning, and inspiration, and was truly an intercollegiate taiko experience, with groups from all over California in attendance. Though it was only a two day event, we felt closer to the collegiate taiko community than ever before, and we left inspired by what we learned, and excited to bring our newfound knowledge back to Kazan in the fall.
Our first day was the most tiring, but in some ways also the most exciting. We started bright and early with an 8am breakfast at UCI, followed by divisions into groups based on Super Smash Bros characters! Within our groups, we then cycled through two different workshops led by one of the taiko masters or groups in attendance. From learning okedo drumming to perfecting solo techniques, there was no shortage of diversity in the different workshops going on. Being taught directly by these taiko leaders is what really makes invitationals so uniquely inspiring and different from all other taiko events. Because taiko in North America is so young relatively speaking, many of its most esteemed masters and pioneers, from Kaoru Watanabe and Tiffany Tamaribuchi to Kris Bergstrom and Yuta Kato, are still alive and able to teach us their knowledge firsthand. We were definitely impressed with the size of some groups too- for many other colleges, school is still in session, but even so, they brought their entire group to invitationals, and some even made it a mandatory event for their new members to come learn and perform with the best. In a way, this truly reflects the spirit of these invitationals- to take each successive generation of taiko players and expose them to the talent, history, and community in Western Collegiate taiko to help foster renewed appreciation and continuance for the taiko art form.
Arguably though, the highlight of invitationals were the concerts at the end of each day that featured performances by each collegiate group in attendance. With 8 members, this was the first time in 3 years that we were able to perform at invitationals! It was our first time seeing many of the other groups perform too, and there was no shortage of kiai-ing, bachi twirling, and high energy in each piece. It was both humbling to see how talented our fellow taiko groups were, and a source of inspiration to push Kazan’s skill up to even higher levels. After the performance, we were also treated to a special “matsuri battle” led by Kris Bergstrom, in which members from all groups in attendance could “battle it out” with original solos!
Kazan’s Richard vs. Yukai’s Bevin: the ultimate USC x UCLA battle?
At the end of invitationals, there was also a hachimaki exchange, which we participated in for the first time! Our members traded with newfound friends and acquaintances from such diverse groups as Asayake Taiko, Bakuhatsu Taiko Dan, and Senryu Taiko, and were truly awed by the feeling of family and friendships represented in this exchange.
Wearing the hachimaki from our newfound friends!
Though invitationals are over, as we contemplate the lessons learned while preparing for the 2015-16 taiko season, it is inspiring to think that we are pushing towards a future that is even more promising thanks to the knowledge, friendships, and connections gained through this one event alone. Taiko Invitationals 2015 was an experience to be remembered, and we can’t wait to see what invitations 2016 will bring!