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Little Tokyo Gets Loud this Summer

This summer, taiko players from all over the world will come together in Little Tokyo for the inaugural World Taiko Gathering. Masato Baba, Project Coordinator, explains, “It’s time to acknowledge Taiko from around the world. The Taiko world is so small to begin with, so we need to learn to be open, share, network, learn, and teach.” TAIKOPROJECT, along with the Southern California Taiko community and advisors, has been working for over a year to organize this worldwide event and they are eager to experience the final result. Approximately 120 groups have registered already, and nine countries are represented so far. These numbers continue to grow daily.

TAIKOPROJECT hosts the first World Taiko Gathering this July in Little Tokyo. Bring on the noise!

Festivities begin early on Thursday, July 17 and run throughout the weekend until Sunday, July 20. Throughout the four-day event, participants of the Gathering will attend workshops and learn from respected taiko leaders, such as Chieko Kojima of Kodo (Japan), Ian Cleworth of TaikOz (Austalia), Jonathan Kirby of Kagemusha Taiko (UK), Lucan Muraguchi of Ishindaiko (Brazil), and many more. Baba’s hope “is that the World Taiko Gathering will open up opportunities for the international (taiko) scene.” In fact, there will be plenty of opportunities for taiko players and enthusiasts to network and share ideas with the world taiko community at this event. Discussion sessions and special presentations will supplement the workshops and will allow larger groups of Gathering participants to come together to discuss all things taiko in a relaxed, yet organized, setting. Concerts throughout the weekend will showcase taiko talents of Gathering participants to their peers as well as enthusiasts throughout Los Angeles.

At midday on Friday and Saturday, Nooner Jams will showcase taiko talents of all levels and styles. These are short midday taiko performances that will be held in the courtyard of the Japanese American National Museum as well as the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) Plaza. The groups will have ten minutes to share their music with their audiences. Each Nooner Jam will feature three ensembles, and these shows are free and open to the public.

During the day, participants can walk through the Taiko Marketplace, where vendors will display their latest merchandise for sale. The Marketplace is also open to the public for a small fee. In addition to vendor sales, the Marketplace will feature a Taiko Yard Sale, where groups can bring and sell their used and unused taiko equipment.

Evenings at the World Taiko Gathering will feature taiko performances by groups from all over the globe. On Friday, the Lunar Jam will provide another opportunity for the public to see taiko free of charge, once again in the Museum courtyard. Saturday and Sunday evenings will feature Taiko Nation, a concert of epic proportions, with a different line up each night featuring taiko groups from around the world. Bryan Yamami, Lead Advisor, explains, “For the Taiko Nation concert, we are really trying to put on an unforgettable world Taiko showcase that doesn’t just feature each group in a separate set, but that features collaborative pieces that truly show the Taiko world coming together onstage.” Taiko Nation tickets are on sale now and the organizing team is working hard to fill all the seats.

The Taiko Nation concert will be held in Little Tokyo on Friday, July 18 and Saturday, July 19, 2014 and will feature taiko artists from around the world.

In addition to the workshops, marketplace, concerts, and special sessions, the Gathering will feature a Matsuri Crashers Battle, the latest Southern California Taiko community craze. The battle provides a space for taiko players to compete against one another in Matsuri style playing, one-on-one or in pairs, and it gives the audience a chance to participate by voting for their favorite player. The battle hopes to attract competitors from all nations present.

There are almost 400 participants registered as of today, with 200 more spots to fill. Little Tokyo is going to be very loud come mid-July. When family, friends, and participants ask TAIKOPROJECT members where the concerts are or how they will find their way to their intended destinations, most answer, “Just follow the noise. You cannot get lost that way.”

When asked about their favorite moments in the planning process so far, Baba and Yamami reported that they felt very appreciative of the support and generosity they’ve received from their advisors and the taiko community that they so trust and respect.

David Wells, Assistant Project Coordinator, sums up the importance of the Gathering well. He says, “I believe that the larger your community is, the better. Our connections with others through family, friendship, work interests, hobbies, or even somewhat more subtle relationships are some of the most important things in our lives. We’re hoping that, through common interest in Taiko, people will take this opportunity to open up their sense of community to an even greater set of people that they’d previously imagined.”

Taiko community members gather at Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo on August 18, 2013 for the first World Taiko Gathering planning meeting.

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2014 World Taiko Gathering
July 17–20, 2014
Little Tokyo, downtown Los Angeles, CA

For more information >>


© 2014 Elizabeth Ishida

Bryan Yamami ishindaiko JACCC janm Japanese American National Museum kagemusha taiko kodo little tokyo Los Angeles Masato Baba music taiko TAIKOPROJECT taikoz World Taiko Gathering