Marching to the beat of their taiko drum
Fubuki Daiko will be performing at the Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Performing Arts Centre on Oct. 20 at 8 p.m. Supplied
Fubuki Daiko have spent the last two decades spreading Japanese culture throughout Canada by marching to the beat of their own drum.
The quartet play tradition Japanese drums called taiko drums but with a modern, high-energy twist. Hiroshi Koshiyama started the group in 1994 in Winnipeg with his wife Naomi Guilbert after studying under Grandmaster Seiichi Tanaka at the San Francisco Taiko Dojo.
Now they tour North America, playing concerts and festivals, as well as performing at schools as a way of teaching about Japanese culture.
On Oct. 20, they will be playing the Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Performing Arts Centre in Camrose at 8 p.m.
“Our philosophy is if you have a heart beat and are interested in the music, we’re willing to share it with anybody,” said Koshiyama. “The way our teacher had trained us, he was very old school, very traditional … our rehearsals are very much the same, they’re very intense but not with the yelling and screaming that our teacher used to. We want to maintain the philosophy of having the energy and the spirituality of the drums and the communication of the drums as well.”
The drums played a significant part in Japanese life for hundreds of years while the Pacific island nation was closed off to the world. They were part of many ceremonies, many of them religious in nature, as they prayed for rice harvests or and as a way to communicate from town to town — the larger the community, the larger the drum. But when the country opened itself up in the late 1800s, the significance of the drums was almost lost in the wind as they became a cultural relic.
In the 1950s in San Francisco, Tanaka’s teacher uncovered an old set of taiko drums and added it to a kit of drums that had one person playing each different type of drum, giving birth to the modern style of taiko drumming.
Koshiyama had seen the drums during a cherry blossom festival while growing up in San Francisco, but always thought they were beyond his reach as a professional group. While teaching English in Japan for a year, he started drumming with a local group. When he returned to San Francisco, he enquired about joining the Taiko Dojo and was welcomed in.
He eventually got the opportunity to tour with the dojo, and even appeared on the soundtrack for the movie “Rising Sun.” In 1994, after performing at Carnegie Hall in New York, he proposed at the top of the Empire States Building to Guilbert. Her answer “probably” eventually turned to a “yes” and they relocated to her native Winnipeg.
It was only natural for them to start up Fubuki Daiko in 1995. They were joined by fellow Taiko Dojo veteran Bruce Robertson in 1996, who is one of the group’s principal instructors and composers.
Giselle Mak has held the fourth position on the roster since for the last 10 years.
One of the key elements to the group is their educational component. They spend much of their time when they’re not performing at festivals, concert halls or at corporate gigs, touring schools in Manitoba thanks in large part due to the Artists in the School Program.
They will be performing for local schools when they come to Camrose on Oct. 18 as well.
“It’s a fun thing for kids, because they’re really an honest crowd, so we are able to test a lot of our newer pieces and if the kids like it then we think it will probably work for most people,” said Koshiyama.
Most of the music they perform is original to the group and they also incorporate a flute into the performance. The group keeps a constant dialogue with the crowd to describe to patrons the significance of each song. One of Koshiyama’s favourite pieces is their take on a traditional lion dance.
“People should be prepared for a really exciting, fun concert,” he said. “It’s really fun for us to perform for large crowds, we always put out a lot of energy when we get a lot of energy back from the crowd. It’s always a two-way street when it goes back and forth.”
This will be the group’s first trip to Camrose, having previously played in Vegreville and Edmonton. Tickets for the show are available at the Lougheed Centre box office or at www.camroselive.ca.