Taiko Invitationals 2015!

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 a true intercollegiate 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 left inspired and excited to bring our newfound knowledge back to Kazan in the fall.

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Morning Check-in!

Our first day was the most tiring, but in some ways 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 in attendance. From okedo drumming to perfecting solo techniques, there was no shortage of diversity in the workshops. Being taught directly by these taiko masters really makes invitationals uniquely different from all other taiko events. Because taiko in North America is so young relatively speaking, many of its most esteemed 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 impressed with the sheer size of some groups too- for most other colleges, school is still in session, but even so, they brought their entire group to invitationals, with some even making it mandatory for their new members to come learn and perform with the best. In a way, this really reflects the spirit of invitationals- to take each successive generation of taiko players and expose them to the talent and community in collegiate taiko, thus fostering renewed appreciation and continuance for the taiko art form.

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Performance time!

Performance time!

The highlight of invitationals had to be the concerts at the end of each day though. They featured performances by each group in attendance, and with 8 members, this was the first time in 3 years that Kazan was able to perform as well! 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. It was humbling to see how talented our fellow taiko groups were, but also a source of inspiration to push Kazan’s skill up to even higher levels. After the performances, 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?

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 also participated in for the first time! Our members traded with newfound friends and acquaintances from groups like Asayake Taiko, Bakuhatsu Taiko Dan, and Senryu Taiko, and were truly awed by the feeling of family and friendships found through this exchange.

Wearing the hachimaki from our newfound friends!

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 amazing event. Taiko Invitationals 2015 was an experience to be remembered, and we can’t wait to see what invitations 2016 will bring!

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