The goal of this recording project is to add value to learning new songs

St. Louis Osuwa Taiko Newsletter

Thawing out from the polar vortex to play taiko

New Year, New Projects

Learning a new song - or revisiting one that you haven't played in a long time - can be a lot like a game of telephone. One player may recall that the bachi is pointed one way while others swear that's wrong; people disagree about whether or not a line has a crescendo or if the first "don" is supposed to be hit with emphasis. There are disagreements about form and stance. And while those differences can lead to the creative evolution of a piece, we realize it can be very confusing for our newer members to learn and become comfortable with a piece in time for a performance.

So, this year we've started to create instructional videos of our songs to help in the learning process. This idea first arose during our last CD funding project, which helped us to purchase the recording equipment needed to produce Misotose. Now that we have our own equipment, we can use it to record songs and drills to help members learn new material or fine-tune their techniques, both at the studio and at home practice.

Andrew plays the introduction to AshuraAbove: Andrew plays the introduction to Ashura, the first piece we've recorded. Written by Mas Kodani of Kinnara Taiko, it's one of the most taught pieces in North American taiko, and it's loaded with dramatic motions and precisely timed crescendos and accents. It's a powerful song, and when everyone comes together at those crticial moments, it feels awesome!

We're excited to finally get this project underway so we continue to build stronger performances in upcoming seasons. We hope you agree!


Upcoming Performances

Maryville University Sakura Festival
Thursday, March 7, 2019 - 6:00 PM
Maryville University
650 Maryville University Drive, St. Louis, MO
Free Event

Sake and Sakura
Friday, April 5, 2019 - 6:00 PM
Missouri Botanical Garden
Northeast Lawn of Japanese Garden
4344 Shaw Blvd., St. Louis, MO
Purchase Tickets

A Celebration of Japanese Culture
Sunday, May 5, 2019 - 11:00 AM
Missouri History Museum
5700 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis, MO
Free Event

SLAM Passport to Japan
Sunday, May 19, 2019 - 1:30 PM
St. Louis Art Museum
Grace Taylor Broughton Sculpture Garden
One Fine Arts Drive, St. Louis, MO
Free Event 
Kiriko Lanterns (Copyright Japan National Tourism Organization)

Song Profile: Kiriko Taiko

Traditional from Wajima

Kiriko Taiko was first introduced to the group after a taiko conference many years ago. Its roots are in Wajima, a city on the Noto Peninsula on the main island of Japan, where annual Kiriko Festivals are held each summer.

Kiriko means "sacred lantern" and is a gigantic lantern float that is the namesake for the festival. Kiriko are assembled each year for the festival and paraded through town. These lanterns can be 40 to 50 feet tall, requiring 20 or more people to carry! A taiko drum is suspended to the rear of the lantern, where drummers will play throughout the night, often accompanied by fue.

Kiroko music is usually played by two people sharing a single drum, which is the inspiration for our piece. At kiriko festivals, one person plays the "ko-bai," or a basic repetitive rhythm (backbeat), while the other plays "o-bai," the main kiriko rhythms. The players may alternate, and the o-bai player might improvise while keeping the overall feel of the piece.

Kiriko lanterns are carried to sea
In the above photo, men pull the float out to sea where bonfires are lit. Many kiriko are set on fire at the conclusion of the festival; many believe that the fire will burn away people's troubles and misfortunes. (Image by Ishikawa Prefecture Tourism League.)

Our version is adapted for a larger ensemble with multiple drums, but the inspiration of two players sharing a drum remains. One player starts the kiriko pattern; about halfway through the verse, a second player joins on the same drum. As the pattern repeats, additional players join on nearby drums and move around the drum between lines to create a simple yet lively composition. It's a short piece and doesn't make it into our programs very often, but we have a lot of fun playing it!

Top image by Japan National Tourism Organization.
We are a non-profit group that performs the art of taiko around the St. Louis area and the world.
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10734 Trenton Ave. | St. Louis, MO 63132
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St. Louis Osuwa Taiko · 10734 Trenton Ave. · St. Louis, MO 63132 · USA

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