Monday, August 31, 2009

2009 North American Taiko Conference

After my trip to Vancouver at the beginning of August, I headed down to Los Angeles, for the North American Taiko Conference, held every two years on the American west coast. This is my fifth time attending and although it's great to be with fellow taiko afficionados in any setting, the conference just feels like it's "home" when it's in LA's Little Tokyo. I love it there!

There were a few less participants this year - a sign of the economic times we are in - but as always, it was a lot of fun and luckily for me, people were still interested in bringing home some taiko jewellery with them!

I made a bunch of these okedo taiko, the drums that need holes in the "skins" (that's the two flat circles on both ends of the barrel), that JF so patiently drills. They are then all tied up in traditional katsugi okedo style, which is when the drum is worn and played slung across the body.

I then make the okedo wearable by putting them on leather necklaces.

These are the other kind of mini taiko I make, nagado taiko.

You can't see them so well on lovely Paige who is pictured below, but she is wearing my wee little taiko earrings and the matching necklace. She performed at this year's Taiko Jam concert with Kishin Daiko.

Here is Kishin Daiko with the members of Arashi Daiko who attended this edition of the conference. Kishin member, Darren Endo, did a super job as the coordinator of this conference - woo hoo, way to go Darren!!! He is also a most beautiful persona to behold onstage - a powerful player with true stage presence, expression and tons of heart. He's definitely one of the highlights of this year's conference for me - a very generous and complete performer.

My ongoing taiko inspiration is Molly Kitajima, seen below, jamming on the plaza in Little Tokyo. I blogged a little about her after the 2007 taiko conference in Seattle; you can read all about that here. This time I had a chance to chat with her a little, and found out she was born in Vancouver, BC, where my parents were also born. She is an amazing woman and still going strong.

There is a comfort I find when talking to Japanese Americans, who are just as familiar to me as Japanese Canadians (I'm talking about people of Japanese descent born in the US or Canada); I especially enjoy meeting nisei (second generation JA's and JC's, my parents' generation), maybe because it feels like I'm talking to my family, but there is just an ease there that I cannot describe. Perhaps it's a sense of community and fellowship, shared experiences, and other things that are are simply understood without saying anything, but it's just very comforting.

These are some other women who play in a taiko group with Molly; they claim to be of a "certain age", but I don't believe them. Annie (in black) asked about my tattoo, because she says the members of their group were all thinking of getting tattoos too. Are they cool, or what?

Here's my Molly again, getting down and into her solo... I STILL want to be like her when I grow up.

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