The UCR Taiko Ensemble
The UCR Taiko Ensemble was founded in Spring 1999 in response to student interest. It is offered during Fall, Winter, and Spring quarters.
What is taiko?
Taiko means ‘large drum’ in Japanese. It is used to refer to the relatively modern tradition of drumming known as kumi-daiko, or ‘group drumming’, which brings together rural traditions of festival drumming, Buddhist ritual drumming, and the martial arts.
Club and Class
At UCR, students can study taiko through either—or both!—the accredited class offered through the Department of Music or through Senryu Taiko, the student club (an official ASUCR organization).
Senryu Taiko, the UCR taiko club, was founded in Winter 1999 and is student-led. It rehearses twice a week in the evening.
- The class is offered for 1 unit as either Music 169 or Asian Studies 169.
- No previous musical training is necessary to take the class.
- It is offered once a week for an hour and a half.
Rev. Tom Kurai
- Our teacher, Rev. Tom Kurai, has played taiko for over 25 years and is the director of the Taiko Center of Los Angeles.
- Rev. Tom is a Zen Buddhist priest and the abbot of Sozenji Buddhist Temple in Montebello, California.
- Rev. Kurai is a performing artist with the Los Angeles Music Center, conducting taiko classes and workshops at public and private schools. He has received grants from the California Arts Council and the Los Angeles City Cultural Affairs Office to preserve the art of taiko in the community. He was recognized with Dramalogue and L.A. Weekly awards for best musical performance in live theater and he performed taiko in the soundtrack for the Academy Award-nominated film, The Thin Red Line.
- Rev. Kurai founded the Taiko Center of Los Angeles in 1996 to promote taiko through performances and classes. Satori Daiko, TCLA’s performing ensemble, is a 20-member group that frequently collaborates with local taiko artists as well as guest artists from Japan and jazz, Latin, African, and Asian American artists. Satori Daiko frequently collaborates with the UCR Javanese Gamelan Ensemble.
Learning how to play
Students learn how to hold the drumsticks, called bachi, and are taught how to use kata, ‘form’, by standing with the torso straight, the right leg straight, and the left knee slightly bent.
- A good kata is as important to taiko playing as having sense of rhythm.
- Eileen Bautista (B.A. in Ethnic Studies, 1999), a member of the class and the club, has a particularly good kata.
- Taiko is physically exhilarating to play.
- It also teaches bodily and mental discipline.
- Rev. Tom demonstrates good technique on the chudaiko (picture above right) while student Keith Bayan looks on. Keith was the founding director of the taiko club in 1999-2000. He is now a medical student at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and a member of Hoh Daiko, a taiko group in Seabrook, New Jersey.
- Some students like taiko so much that they take the class for more than one quarter.
- Kay Pih, a doctoral student in sociology, has been in both the class and the club for several years.
- Several UCR staff members are loyal members of the taiko class.
- Librarian Heidi Hutchinson is a member of the UCR Pipe Band as well as a taiko player.
- Judy Lee, a reference specialist at Rivera Library, has also been in the taiko class for several years.
- Susan Komura, known to many UCR students as the undergraduate advisor in the Department of History, is also a stalwart member of the taiko class.
Staff and faculty members at UCR are welcome to take the taiko class. They can provide important continuity as they become standing members of the group.
Taiko at UCR
- Taiko was brought to UCR by Prof. Deborah Wong, an ethnomusicologist who began studying taiko in 1997 with Rev. Tom.
- She is a member of Satori Daiko, the performing ensemble of the Taiko Center of Los Angeles, and she teaches world music courses in the UCR Department of Music.
For more information, please contact:
Professor Deborah Wong
Department of Music
Office tel. (951) 827-3726
Taiko Center of Los Angeles: www.taikocenter.com