Pass by the seemingly abandoned chapel at the foothills of Diamond Head, and you might be lucky enough to hear the booming sound of Taiko drums echoing from the building.
On this particular afternoon, the drums sound as a group of children play a very energetic and dance-like piece called Yodan-uchi. This piece involves movement around three large taiko drums, and is played to a fast-paced beat. It is an exciting sight for any passerby.
For those unfamiliar with the term, "taiko" means "big drum" in Japanese. Since it was brought to the states from Japan in the 1960s, Taiko has become an increasingly popular art form in North America. This performance art has become well known in various American communities and in colleges across the nation. But for some, taiko is not just about the music.
In an age when President Obama has inspired youth to take on civic responsibility for the good of all, so has the Taiko Center of the Pacific, a Honolulu-based taiko school, inspired youth to learn taiko to become more connected with Japanese tradition and understand their own obligation to pay respects to the art's origins.
In 1994, Chizuko Endo and world-renowned master taiko drummer Kenny Endo established the Taiko Center of the Pacific, or TCP, to provide a school where youth and adults alike could learn to drum while also observing the discipline and practices that are involved with the art form.
For instance, in the dojo they emphasize respect for the teachers, the instruments, for oneself, and for the art of taiko by bowing at the door before entering or exiting.
Through the school, the Endos formed the Taiko Center of the Pacific Youth Group, an accomplished performance group for advanced children aged 5-18. Yodan-uchi is a piece from their performance repertoire, and the energy and love of taiko is ever apparent in each song they play. For TCP, youth are especially important since they are the future of the art of Taiko.
"To be exposed to the artsgives youth better tools for doing well in their own lives as well as enriching the lives of those around them," says Kenny Endo, who has revolutionized the art form with his philosophy of tradition combined with innovation. "The important thing is to find one's path and dedicate their time to something they love."
For members of the Youth Group, taiko is that something.
"Through the years, taiko has provided me with an outlet to express myself. When I play I am able to channel all the emotions in my life into each hit of the drum," says Julia Hirata, who has been performing with the TCP Youth Group for one year, but has played taiko for about two years.
Long-time TCP Youth Group performer Ryan Luce says "there is a feeling, or 'high,' associated with playing taiko music," and he enjoys playing because of the cultural experience he acquires through the art.
This summer, the Youth Group will be taking its first trip to Japan on a Taiko Intensive Study Tour. There, they will have the invaluable opportunity to workshop with some of Japan's top taiko pioneers and apply some of the traditions they have learned.
"The trip to Japan is a natural step to discover the roots of this art form, meet new people and be exposed to the positive aspects of Japanese culture," says Endo. "Hopefully it will also inspire some of them to further learn about the rich traditions and their potential to keep creating."
The TCP Youth group will also be performing on April 25th at the Hawaii Theatre as a part of "Taiko Fest '09! Island Style," a concert organized by the Taiko Center of the Pacific. Also featured will be the Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble; Rhythm Summit Trio with Kenny Endo, Noel Okimoto, and Dean Taba; and special guests from a remote island in Japan, Hachijo Daiko.
For those children who wish to play but are not yet at performing level, TCP offers classes for kids ages 5-83, and has also brought back its Family Taiko classes to encourage parents and children to learn taiko and its Japanese traditions together. For more information on this and the concert, visit www.taikoarts.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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