Modern taiko has always been a blend of old and new, combining the seriousness of tradition with the creative zeal of a new age. Our school show at Monument High School was a blend of old a new in two ways.
The first way was a purely personal blending of old and new. Sheilarae and I were co-running a taiko workshop. Neither of us had ever run a workshop before. The 6th anniversary of my first taiko workshop is coming up at the end of the month and here I was running one! Thank goodness for Sheilarae! There is no way I could have done it alone and she was so much more engaging than I was. Our first workshop was a little shaky. We didn’t quite know how to time things out.
Our second and third groups were much better though, in no small part to the students who arrived full of energy and interest. Our last group was quite small, but the two enthusiastic women who showed up out kiai‘d the other two groups combined. It was a wonderful note to go to the performance on.
The performance. Now here was a real blending of old and new.
Karen and Greg had been working on their stick flipping for a traditional standard, Matsuri. They needed a third to join them, but none of us had quite mastered it well enough to perform. Beth stepped up to the plate however, but instead of her skill in flipping, she employed her skill in comedy. This is why, two days before, on a dreary afternoon, I went to meet a friend to borrow his rubber chicken. Rubber chicken, two bananas (one real and one plastic), taiko and Beth’s comedic timing made for the most “new” Matsuri I’d ever seen. Bachi flew everywhere, and so did bananas and the chicken, making its plaintive cry as it flew through the air.
Will we ever see the chicken again? Time will tell, but this was definitely a memorable performance and a testament to creativity. Were we making a mockery of the tradition? I don’t think so. I think we were paying tribute to the difficulty of the things that some taiko players make look too easy! Plus we were taking the spirit, old and new, and taking it in our own direction.