Celebrating our 45th Anniversary!

2024 is Soh Daiko’s 45th Anniversary year! We have been drumming in the basement of the New York Buddhist Church for four and a half decades, giving countless performances at events large and small and near and far. After a brief beginning as a youth group, Soh Daiko was formed in 1979 and became the first taiko ensemble on the East Coast of the United States. Over the years we’ve made appearances on Sesame Street, NBC’s Today Show, Saturday Night Live, and more, as well as sharing the love of taiko with audiences all across the tri-state area at cultural festivals.

This weekend we came together with former Soh Daiko members and friends to celebrate this milestone. We enjoyed a beautiful view, great company, delicious food, and a performance just for us.

In honor of our 45th Anniversary, we will be taking a trip down memory lane to celebrate our iconic repertoire from its early days to the present. Original compositions like Yuudachi and Hachidan and arrangements like Matsuri and Miyake have stood the test of time over our 45 year history. Though the music and spirit have endured, these pieces continue to evolve with the group and its members. Join us as we revisit videos of our favorite performances from the early days and recent years!

You can follow along at our Youtube channel (link in bio) and on Instagram and Facebook with: #sohdaiko45th

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East Coast Taiko Conference 2024

Earlier this month, Soh Daiko drove up to Providence, Rhode Island for the return of the East Coast Taiko Conference. We taught workshops to taiko players from a variety of backgrounds and experience levels, and we performed one of our signature pieces, Yuudachi, in the star-studded final concert.

Hosted by Gendo Taiko of Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design, the 2024 East Coast Taiko Conference marked the return of the conference since COVID-19, the last ECTC being February 2020 at University of Connecticut, as well as Gendo Taiko’s 20th Anniversary! Excitement was in the air as a whole new class of collegiate taiko players got to experience a gathering of east coast taiko players and guest artists, while community and former collegiate players returned to catch up with old friends and learn new skills.

Soh Daiko’s unique contribution to the weekend included workshops on “Playing as an Ensemble” and “Stage Presence”. We had three wonderful groups of participants who followed along carefully as we introduced them to Soh Daiko’s ways of musically supporting one another and adding professionalism to a performance. They then put their learnings to the test and demonstrated their own mini performances in small groups!

Over a dozen taiko professionals came from far and wide (as far as Japan!) to lead workshops and grace the stage for the final concert. We enjoyed catching up and spending time with all the other workshop instructors, as well as performing together in the encore jam in the final concert. Chieko Kojima even joined us for the drive up to Rhode Island, and following ECTC, Kenny Endo joined us back in New York for an amazing shime-daiko workshop! Everyone put on an incredible show, and the audience of taiko players brought an unbeatable energy.

Thank you to all the amazing performers who we shared the stage with, all the taiko players we shared the weekend with, and of course a big thank you goes to Gendo Taiko for pulling off a seamless conference. After a long wait, you did not disappoint. Congratulations on 20 years, Gendo Taiko!

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Returning to a New Year’s Tradition – Mochitsuki

Battling an impending snow storm and limited subway service, Soh Daiko members, alumni, family, and friends made their way to the Upper West Side last weekend for our first Mochitsuki in three years. For decades, Soh Daiko has rung in the New Year by hosting an annual mochitsuki event at our home, the New York Buddhist Church. Since the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, we had been unable to host this event safely–until now!

Following Japanese tradition, preparation for our mochitsuki event is a multi-day affair: the mochigome (glutinous rice) is soaked overnight, so that it is ready to be steamed the following day. Once the rice has been sufficiently steamed, a batch is dropped into a stone bowl (usu) and a team of diligent mochi-makers pound the rice into mochi using a wooden mallet (kine). Once the mochi reaches the ideal consistency, it is divided into small edible portions, fillings and toppings are added, and finally, we eat!

Unique to Soh Daiko, however, is the song we sing as we pound the mochi. Composed by Yoko Fujimoto and gifted to Soh Daiko as a symbol of the friendship, the “Soh Daiko American Mochitsuki Song” (僧太鼓メリケン餅つき唄) has been performed every year since it was taught to us in 2010.

Soh Daiko family and friends enjoyed a potluck meal and fresh mochi, played music together, and caught up on the the years that had passed. Our trainees had the opportunity to meet Soh Daiko’s pioneers, and some even took up the mallet and pounded the mochi! Surrounded by our taiko community, we could not have imagined a better way to start off 2024. We wish everyone a Happy New Year, and look forward to many more wonderful years (and mochitsukis) to come!

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Introducing our new trainees!

Coming out of our recruitment workshops, we are excited to welcome eleven trainees for our 2023-2024 trainee class! Many, but not all, of our new recruits have played taiko previously, with experience in collegiate groups like Gendo Taiko, Swarthmore Taiko, Cal Raijin Taiko, and Bakuhatsu Taiko Dan, youth taiko groups like San Jose Junior Taiko, and even Asaka Daikol, a performing group in Japan!

But most important, all of our trainees show a great passion for taiko, learning, and performing. Over the next three months, they will join us for weekly rehearsals and learn Soh Daiko’s way through observation, drills, and dedicated trainee hours, honing in on Soh Daiko’s unique techniques and repertoire.

This is the biggest group of trainees we’ve taken on in years, and we can hardly wait to see what they accomplish!

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Soh Much Fun at the Soh Daiko Recruitment Workshops!

On Sept 23rd and 30th, Soh Daiko held our two recruitment workshops of the season, and we had a great turn out despite the rain! We were joined in the dojo by a diverse group of participants, including many who have played taiko in collegiate or community groups prior and several who were completely new to taiko. We worked with them through the basics of taiko, demonstrating our style and repertoire, and sent them home with an appreciation for taiko and Soh Daiko, and likely some blisters and sore muscles, too!

Workshop participants learned and demonstrated their skills in both beta (downstand) and yokouchi (upstand) styles, as well as joined us for vigorous warm up exercises and drills. At the end of each workshop, we circled up for a jam session to allow each participant to shine and to share our love for taiko with one another.

Thank you to all our participants for joining us! While we hope everyone learned a lot about our form of taiko, we also learned a lot from having new players and personalities join us in the dojo over the past two Saturdays, and soon we will be excited to announce our 2023 Trainee Group!

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