East Coast Taiko Conference 2020

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 board, 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!

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Happy New Year!

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:

40th.sohdaiko.org/support

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!

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Introducing our 2019-2020 Trainees!

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!

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#TaikoLove

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.

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