With festival pieces like “Matsuri” and “Shin-en” in our repertoire, it was only natural that Odaiko New England would be invited to perform for the Allston Village Street Fair. Dubbed an “urban Mardi Gras”, this event featured many different bands and performers, and we were thrilled to be adding taiko to the musical stew for everyone to enjoy.
Our presentation for the fair was a bit different than our concerts; we played right on Harvard Avenue, between Commonwealth and Brighton Avenues! We played mainly to passersby strolling up and down the street instead of a seated audience, so we opted to perform 4 pieces as a set which we could repeat as needed for the duration of our time slot.
Due to our limited space, we arranged a setup of three chu’s, an okejime set, and miscellaneous percussion. An advantage of the set rotation was that everyone got a chance to play different roles for each song. Thus, I sometimes played chappa, sometimes uchiwa, and other times a chu daiko.
We played two popular pieces from ONE’s repertoire on nanamedai, or slant-stands – Matsuri and Hachijo. Personally, I thought we rocked out pretty well on Hachijo, and the dramatic choreography of that song made it a crowd-pleaser even for casual observers, compelling them to pause, listen & watch. Another highlight for me was my first-ever opportunity to finally play Shin-en on a chu! For more than two years I’ve had “ji duty” when playing Shin-en, setting the groove with the swing ji rhythm at our concerts and other performances, so there was real satisfaction for me in finally playing the chu part.
After awhile, the two main stages began sound checks for the PA systems and bands, and the volume was just too much for our unamplified drums. We were all set to perform the next song, but how much of it would anyone really hear? Mark came up with a great solution to this impasse: we grabbed all our portable equipment (okedo’s, chappa, uchiwa, kane and fue) and took our brand of taiko on a mini-parade down the street and back again! This unexpected excursion was really fun and made for a fitting conclusion to our performance.
I must add that our merchandise table was staffed by the indefatigable Joy. Despite nursing a sore ankle, she played chappa from her chair for a few songs and efficiently managed our table. And while the rest of us were busy preparing for the next song, or supervising a youngster having a go at playing one of our chu’s, Joy handled inquiries from the passersby stopping to peruse our wares and sign up on our mailing list.
Due to the transient nature of the audience we played for, one of Kenny Endo‘s pearls of wisdom came to mind – the notion that at a given concert there will be people hearing taiko for the first time as well as people hearing taiko for the last time, and we want them to have a good experience of taiko. On a warm, sunny, late summer Sunday in Allston, I think we left people in either of those categories with a positive experience of taiko.