We are heartbroken and angry. We recognize that the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery are among the latest in centuries of violence against Black lives. Soh Daiko stands in solidarity with the Black community, in support of protesters seeking justice and reformation, and in commitment to the call for systemic change.
Our name was derived from a core belief of peace, harmony, and working together. In the words of Yuri Kochiyama, a true ally through her life of dedicated social justice activism, “Remember that consciousness is power. Consciousness is education and knowledge. Consciousness is becoming aware.” As we seek to unite people through our music, we are committing to recognizing the intersections of our communities, acknowledging the ways that the Asian American community has benefited from the activism of the Black community, and ultimately listening and making room for new ideas and actions for realizing equality.
To this end, we are continuing to educate ourselves on how to be active and informed allies to the Black community. Resources that we have found to be helpful starting points are listed below.
Further, we encourage our followers to step up for your local community by supporting Black-owned businesses, and by getting involved in the fight for justice in any way you can. For our neighbors in NYC, we have included lists of Black-owned businesses among our resources below.
In an effort to give space for Black voices, we have postponed the rest of our virtual Soh Daiko on Tour series. We look forward to a time when we can perform for you all in person and raise our voices, together, in the fight for equal justice.
This past weekend, Soh Daiko road-tripped to the University of Connecticut for the 2020 East Coast Taiko Conference. We attended workshops led by professionals in the community, taught a workshop on our version of the Miyake playing style, and opened the ECTC Final Concert with our arrangement of Matsuri Daiko. It is always so exciting to reconnect with old friends and meet new members of the community, all while celebrating and exploring the traditions and evolution of this art form we’re all so dedicated to.
The weekend started early on Friday as current and alumni members of Soh Daiko attended and assisted in hosting a welcome luncheon by the Taiko Community Alliance. Many attendees had arrived the night before to attend a concert by DRUM TAO on campus, and the luncheon proved to be a wonderful opportunity for everyone to catch up and relax together before jumping into the flurry of conference activities ahead. Hosted in UConn’s Asian Americans Cultural Center, a highlight of the event for us was learning from staff and students about the history of Asian American presence at UConn through an incredible timeline mural in the Center; we also heard how supportive their organization has been of Kodama Taiko and their efforts to bring our community together this weekend. If you’re ever in the area, we highly recommend you stop by to see the mural for yourself!
During the conference, we had the privilege to lead a workshop on Miyake, a style of taiko playing founded on Miyake Island and popularized by the group Kodo. Soh Daiko was first taught Miyake by members of Kodo when they visited New York City on tour in the 1980s. Over the years, Soh Daiko members have taken workshops with the Tsumura family, who originally taught the style to Kodo. At this year’s ECTC, we taught participants the basics of our Miyake stance, technique, and rhythms, emphasizing core elements that ring true for all variations on the Miyake style. And, of course, we demonstrated our own arrangement of Miyake, influenced by our early training with Kodo and with our unique New York flair.
At every ECTC, a full day of workshops culminates with the Final Concert in which collegiate, community, and professional taiko artists alike perform for the East Coast community. This year, we opened the show with one of our signature pieces, Matsuri Daiko. Although many taiko ensembles play a version of Matsuri, our arrangement’s choreography and rhythms are unique to Soh Daiko and allow us to share our true spirit with our audience.
Another ECTC staple is the opportunity to attend discussions by pioneers and activists in the taiko community. On Sunday, one of our founding members, Alan Okada, presented a comprehensive and engaging “Taiko Talk” about the history of taiko and its journey from early Japan all the way to the present-day east coast of the United States. As a member of the Taiko Community Alliance’s Advisory Council, Alan is highly involved in documenting, developing, and leading the North American taiko community forward. One of Alan’s recent achievements has been creating a timeline documenting the founding years of all taiko groups on the East Coast, demonstrating the art form’s rapid expansion in the last few decades.
As a student-run and volunteer-driven event, we were happy to support the ECTC organizers’ goals by contributing to UConn Kodama Taiko’s crowdfunding initiative in the weeks leading up to ECTC, and we thank everyone who donated to our team fundraising page! With everyone’s support, Kodama Taiko surpassed their goal and raised over $6,000, all of which contributed to bringing together talented artists and building community at this extraordinary event. As a part of the crowdfunding initiative, Kodama Taiko teamed up with Asano Taiko U.S., who generously donated several prize packages in order to give back to those who contributed to ECTC’s fundraising efforts. We’re excited to report that our team completed the campaign as the top fundraiser, allowing us to take home a beautiful brand new katsugi okedo from Asano Taiko U.S.!
We’re so proud of all the teams in our community who fundraised and helped the ECTC organizers reach this goal, and of the many individuals who contributed their time with volunteering, their resources with equipment loans, and their spirits to energize the weekend. A big shout-out goes to UConn’s Kodama Taiko for the immense work put into hosting this year’s conference. We’re honored to have been a part of ECTC 2020 and are already looking forward to the next ECTC, hosted by Gendo Taiko at Brown University!
As another decade comes to a close, we’d like to reflect on the love and support Soh Daiko has received from our community throughout our history. This year, we celebrated our 40th Anniversary with a concert that brought together Soh Daiko members past and present, and with the help of our alumni, we kicked off our ongoing “Fun for the Future” fundraising campaign.
With the goal of raising $100,000, our “Fun for the Future” campaign will allow us to continue our mission to promote and propagate an understanding and love for taiko music for the next 40 years (and beyond!). The six chu daiko unveiled on stage at our 40th Anniversary Concert, crafted by Asano Taiko, were funded by this campaign. We intend to use the rest of this fund to enable further growth of the group through investments in additional new equipment, new repertoire, workshops, costumes, and more. Four of our founding members – Alan Okada, Mieko Okada, Sandy Ikeda, and Jenny Wada – have pledged to match the first $20,000 donated toward this campaign. While we have made great progress this year, we still have a long way to go to meet our goal and would be grateful for any support you can give in 2020 and beyond. If you would like to contribute to our “Fun for the Future” campaign, please visit:
It was a joy and an honor to perform for and share our every-growing history with you all this past year. Now, as we enter 2020, we look forward to our future and are excited for the opportunities that await us in this new decade. From all of us to all of you, Happy New Year!
Following two full days of recruitment, we are excited to welcome five new trainees into our 2019-2020 trainee class! Our trainees worked hard during recruitment to learn and showcase basic taiko form and drills. This year’s class brings unique and diverse talents to the group – from dance to jazz drumming – and we look forward to training the next generation of Soh Daiko performers as they continue learning and practicing with us over the next few months!
New this year, our recruitment sessions were split into two separate days with different attendees at each session. Last Thursday, our recruits from each session met for the first time to begin training together. Check out the photos below for a look at their experience so far!
What better way to launch our new season than with a reflection on the moments, members, and mentors who have made us the group we are today? Throughout October, Soh Daiko participated in the #TaikoLove challenge – a social media movement founded and organized by our Virginia-based sister group, Nen Daiko, in celebration of the spirit of community and interconnectedness that taiko has the power to awaken in its players.
Tasked each day with a theme to relate to, we joined groups from around the world in sharing stories that speak to who we are as an ensemble; we dug into our archives, reminisced on recent events, and we even took on new challenges to share aspects of our group that our supporters may not have seen from us before.
We #TaikoLove our rich history, and are more excited now than ever for the year ahead as we prepare to welcome new individuals into our ranks. If you’d like to learn more about the #TaikoLove movement, visit Nen Daiko’s website, and be sure to check our our Instagram #TaikoLove Highlights to see our full array of photos and videos for this year’s challenge.
For an even more in-depth look at what #TaikoLove represents, please enjoy the video below where Nen Daiko member Carla Brown shares a few of the lessons learned by Nen Daiko in their time organizing this movement.
On Saturday, June 22, 2019, Soh Daiko celebrated our 40th Anniversary surrounded by our community, our friends, our family, and each other – 47 members from Soh Daiko’s past and present, to be exact.
When Mamoru Funai and James Moran gathered our founding group members together in 1979, they collectively formed the first taiko group on the east coast. Asking Reverend Hozen Seki of the New York Buddhist Church for a name that would mean “peace, harmony, and working together,” we became known as Soh Daiko. To pay homage not only to the meaning behind this name, but to the legacy of members who have upheld these values throughout our now 40-year history, we curated our Anniversary Concert around the theme of kizuna, or “bonds.”
In recognition of the bonds that unite our members past and present, we invited alumni to join us in performance. Alumni who have since retired from playing taiko, alumni who have moved to different states, who have just started new lives with new, growing families, who took time out of their lives to come “home,” reprising positions they had played during their tenure in Soh Daiko, or composing solos that demonstrated the unique character each and every person brings to our group. For current members, it was an indescribable joy to experience how these performers returned and seamlessly folded back into our ranks as if they had never left.
Through these bonds, we also had the pleasure of being reunited with many more alumni, including Mamoru Funai and James Moran themselves, who joined the 40th Anniversary celebration as members of our audience. Some traveled all the way back from Japan to be present for this event. Collectively, our alumni in attendance represented all 4 decades of Soh Daiko’s existence.
As a part of the New York Buddhist Church, we are fortunate to share ties with the taiko groups of our sister temples – Hoh Daiko at Seabrook Buddhist Temple (Seabrook, NJ) and Nen Daiko at Ekoji Buddhist Temple (Fairfax Station, VA). Members of both groups attended the concert, bringing overwhelming excitement and support (and kiai throughout the show – yes, we heard you!).
Through the bond of friendship, our 40th Anniversary Concert afforded us the opportunity to celebrate long-lasting relationships with additional taiko groups and practitioners near and far. In particular, we are honored to have once again shared the stage with Kodo Distinguished Member Yoko Fujimoto, who has been a teacher, mentor, and friend to Soh Daiko since our beginnings. In addition to sharing her own repertoire on stage, Yoko infused her music into our arrangement of Matsuri Daiko, and dedicated time to teach our members the song Yasae-bushi, which we performed alongside her.
In the process of planning this event, as current performing members took stock of all these relationships and connections, we considered our own role as representatives of Soh Daiko’s 40-year legacy. Ultimately, we recognize that we are not only committed to our group’s history, but also to its future. As such, with generous financial support from our alumni and community as a part of our Fun for the Future campaign, we made the decision to form a new bond: After 40 years of performing on our own hand-made barrel taiko – a tradition that we will continue to honor – we have invested in a new set of performance drums, crafted by Asano Taiko. With the help of beautiful new handcrafted traveling cases by Toni Yagami (Taiko with Toni), we were able to unveil and perform on these instruments for the first time in our 40th Anniversary Concert.
Finally, we would be remiss to not recognize a bond that drives us every day, at every practice, fostering the future that we are preparing for: our audience. The amazing community who joins us week after week, taking time out of their lives to show appreciation for this art form that we love. Thank you. Through all of these relationships, we will continue to honor those who came before us and pave the way for those who will follow. We are who we are because of you.
Fun for the Future
In honor of our 40th anniversary and in support of all the years to come, this spring we launched our “Fun for the Future” fundraising campaign. Throughout our 40th anniversary year, we aim to raise $100,000, allowing us to continue our mission to promote and propagate an understanding and love for taiko music for the next 40 years (and beyond!).
The six chu daiko unveiled on stage at our 40th Anniversary Concert, crafted by Asano Taiko, were funded by this campaign. We intend to use the rest of this fund to enable further growth of the group through investments in additional new equipment, new repertoire, workshops, costumes, and more.
Four of our founding members – Alan Okada, Mieko Okada, Sandy Ikeda, and Jenny Wada – have pledged to match the first $20,000 donated toward this campaign. We still have a long way to go to meet our goal, and would be grateful for any support you can give. If you are interested in contributing please visit: