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Yesterday at 17:49

Beat of the drum

By Matt Vis, tbnewswatch.com
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A local group specializing in a form of Japanese percussion is getting an opportunity to learn from the masters of the art.

The city’s Kaminari Wan taiko drumming group is heading to Japan next month to perform with a group in Thunder Bay’s sister city of Gifu City.

The local group first assembled in late 2011 after the Gifu City ensemble visited Thunder Bay for a performance.

The visitors from Japan donated drums to the Lakehead Japanese Cultural Association and things have taken off since then.

“It’s incredibly special. When they offered this opportunity to us we were jaw dropped thinking we can’t do this,” Douglas Kyle said following a practice session at the West Thunder Community Centre on Sunday.

“But there was a spirit that came together and a few of us said let’s do this and make this happen. To be in that environment, the birthplace of taiko drumming, it’s not only going to be a technical experience but to be around those people who live and breathe it, we’re going to walk away for something we’ll never forget.”

Taiko is both an audible and visual art form that revolves around rhythm and the bond each member has with their instrument.

“Taiko drumming is unlike other drumming in that it’s not just rhythm and beat but there’s choreography, form, technique and there’s also a connection taiko drummers have with their drums,” Cindy Sakiyama said.

“It’s not just a drum. It’s a kind of spiritual relationship. There’s a lot of spirituality and rituals involved in taiko drumming.”

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The drumming has origins dating back to ancient Japan when it would be used to rally war troops but within the last few centuries has become a crucial component of the culture’s musical heritage.

For those with Japanese heritage, it is an opportunity for them to get in touch with their roots.

“Being half-Japanese I’m very interested in the Japanese culture and maintaining that with my children and myself,” Alaine Auger said. “Drumming is a great way to maintain that culture.”

Auger and Kyle both have drumming backgrounds but say taiko is unlike anything they’ve ever done.

“It’s very physical,” Kyle said.

The impact and the rhythm resonates within, Sakiyama says.

“It speaks to the soul. If you listen to the music and you hear the rhythms it speaks into the inner core of your being and I think that’s where the spiritual part comes in,” she said.

The group also has some local performances lined up for the coming months, starting with the Folklore Festival before they embark on their journey.

They plan to hit the stage at Summer in the Parks where they will show off what they learned in Japan.

“It’s going to charge us up to another level,” Kyle said.

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