A Weekend of Taiko and Fellowship with kaDON
This month, taiko players from all over the Midwest converged on Lake Beulah, Wisconsin, for a weekend retreat led by taiko greats Shoji Kameda of OnEnsemble and kaDON, and Shogo Yoshii, former member of Kodo. Performing members Heather Grove and Helena Converse traveled to the retreat, drums in tow, for the opportunity to bond with groups from surrounding states and to learn a new composition to bring back to the group.
The retreat kicked of with a campfire where we shared stories and lessons learned from taiko. The takeaway? While we have tremendous diversity in our musical backgrounds, we have all learned similar lessons from taiko: from finding new joy and empowerment through taiko, to being part of something that is bigger than ourselves. We are so grateful for the experiences!
We had a mini SLOT reunion, catching up with former members Kelsey Volkmann and Aya Yoshida! Kelsey now performs with Ho Etsu Taiko, and Aya is a founding and managing member of education provider kaDON, who organized the event. Photo by Yoko Kawamura.
The retreat focused on learning a new piece called kaDON Ondo. Composed by Shogo Yoshii, the song centers around minyo
, a Japanese folk music style often sung while working or playing. Leading us around a campfire, Shogo taught a series of dance steps to accompany the festive piece. It was a fun introduction to the piece, and dancing around a bonfire certainly helped us to stay warm on a frosty night!
Shogo teaches the rhythm sections that set the framework for kaDON Ondo. As we worked to master the patterns, he played fue and sang so we could experience the full arrangement. Photo by Jason Matsumoto.
: Shoji takes a deep dive into the chuu-daiko portion of the piece, reminding us time and again of the importance of understanding how all parts fit together to create a complete piece. It's not easy to play one rhythm on the taiko while stepping to another beat and vocalizing all at the same time! Photo by Jason Matsumoto.
After an intense day of learning, we settled again by the campfire to share more stories and to try our hands at improvisational drumming. The evening was capped by a burning ritual, called bachi kuyou
, where we told tales of our broken bachi as we ceremoniously burned them in the bonfire. There was also a lot of dancing and singing; Helena and Heather introduced the song Yaisama, a piece we recently debuted in our own performances.
Helena places a recently broken bachi into the campfire during the bachi kuyou.
The final day of the retreat began with a frosty walk to Lake Beulah, led by our workshop leaders, to reflect on the weekend's experiences. Finally, we gathered a final time for a recital where Shogo and Shoji performed a variety of pieces, concluding with the entire group performing the new song we had learned.
Shogo plays a melody on the kokyū
while Shoji accompanies with taiko and bells on his feet! It was both humbling and inspiring to watch these talented musicians, and we're excited to bring renewed energy and some new music back to the group!
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