Kita No Taiko
Kita No Taiko was formed in 1987. Six people began with a passion to play Japanese Drums (Taiko) but had no drums, no costumes and only 2 very short songs. Initially, practice consisted of playing on spare tires and the practices were always based on self-discovered techniques for playing, as well as learning the joys and pitfalls of group dynamics.
Frustrated with playing tires, the group dedicated 6 months to building a few crude (in retrospect) drums using a feta cheese barrel, a wine barrel and plastic sewer pipe. But we were pleased with having the beginnings of a real Japanese drum troupe. As well, we constructed drum stands and costumes, and added a few more pieces to our repertoire. Our goal was to debut at Heritage Days, an annual festival in Edmonton.
We were very nervous the day of the first performance, and were surprised that we were so well received. As we laboured through the performances over the 3 day event, we saw many areas to explore and improve.
Encouraged by our warm reception, we performed a few more times at various events and added a little more music. In 1989 we performed at both the 1st Night Festival and the Fringe, our first of many appearances at both events. In 1990 we played at the Kurimoto Gardens, at a school and travelled to Calgary for the first time. Over the years we have played many times at the Kurimoto Gardens. We have also developed a presentation especially suited to schools. In 1991 we had our first of many performances at the Jubilee Auditorium, the Citadel, in Red Deer and Winnipeg.
In the years following we continued to grow and the community of taiko enthusiasts grew. We played at the Canmore Folk Festival, in Grande Prairie, in Banff for the Banff Centre (a world renowned school for fine arts), Fort McMurray, Peace River, Lethbridge and many other places in Alberta. A special highlight for us was a joint performance with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in the Jubilee Auditorium. That was followed by a similar performance in Calgary with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. We completed an international award winning film project with Mieko Ouchi called "By This Parting." It was also presented in Calgary and Edmonton as a live stage production. While most of our performances are in western Canada, we have performed in the U.S. and Japan as well.
We have been unfettered in our exploration of the taiko. It has sometimes been a slow and difficult process to learn the most fundamental techniques of drumming, building drums and performing. But it really has been very exciting and full of possibilities. Our exploration has lead us to have workshops with the world's best taiko groups. The most notable of the groups is Kodo of Sado Island, Japan. We are very fortunate to have been taught by Fujimoto Yoshikazu on several occasions. This type of contact has opened our eyes to many ideas.
A few of us have also studied in Japan with many players and performers. As well, some of us have spent time at the oldest taiko manufacturing company in Japan; a family business 400 years old. We continue our relationship with that company and another manufacturer in Japan. We always look for opportunities to learn from builders since we build and maintain many of the drums we use.
Our members are either students or have full time careers outside of taiko so we cherish the time we are able to devote to playing. We practice twice a week all year and it is not unusual to practice more when we are preparing for a performance. We have a public workshop every year to give anyone the opportunity to learn a little about playing taiko.
We had no suspicion what the results of our efforts would be when we started in 1987. To perform all year, have workshops with renowned artists and peers, teach the public, perform and lecture in schools, do the tasks required to manage the group and build and maintain equipment is something we would not have believed possible. Today we are as excited about what has happened so far as we are for the future of Kita No Taiko.