Makoto Taiko, a Pasadena-based community taiko group that’s one of the largest in Southern California, with nearly 120 members, will exhibit the precision and artistry of Japanese drumming with their annual concert Hajime! on Saturday, June 18 at the Aratani Theatre at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Los Angeles.
This will be Makoto Taiko’s first concert since 2019.
The group chose the theme Hajime! – which translates to the imperative “Begin!” – to celebrate Makoto Taiko’s resilience through two years of pandemic-related challenges and the opportunity to once again share the dynamism of taiko with the community.
Karen Koyano, Executive Director of Makoto Taiko, said the audience can expect to see and hear inspiring, energetic music, with seven taiko drum pieces from their members and the various classes the group offers for all ages. Some of Los Angeles’ more well-known taiko artists will be joining as guests.
“We have five featured artists who also have solos or duet and also collaboration pieces with us, so they (the audience) would get a real variety of music, music styles, composition, on traditional and contemporary instruments,” Koyano said. “One of our guest artists is a shamisen player; shamisen is a traditional Japanese instrument which looks like a banjo. It’s been a long tradition in Japan to play this kind of an instrument in Kabuki theater, and it’s a real, specific Japanese art form.”
Joining Makoto Taiko members onstage will be Grammy Award winning Taiko Master Koji Nakamura; Grammy Award nominated musician, composer, and producer Shoji Kameda; koto, shamisen, and vocal artist Sumie Kaneko; taiko artist, composer, and arranger Isaku Kageyama; and taiko performer, composer, and shinobue artist David Wells.
The evening’s program will include both traditional and modern taiko compositions, and several pieces composed by the Pasadena ensemble’s own instructors.
“Taiko literally means a big, large drum. Well, one kind of Taiko drum is a big fat drum, like a wine barrel sized drum. It has leather skin on both sides. There’s smaller ones that look like a snare drum that’s called a Shime, there’s a larger drum, which is maybe four to six feet wide called an Ō-daiko – it means a very big drum.”
“Each drum would have its own part to the music and it all comes together to form just a really wonderful sound, something that really makes people feel good,” Koyano continued. “Part of our reason for serving the community is to make people feel good about listening to the music – just generally an overall better outlook – and we want that kind of emotion to spread to others in the community.”
Makoto Taiko is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic ensemble open to all interested individuals, regardless of drumming experience. Since 1999, their members have ranged in age from four years old to 80. Classes are offered weekly, range from beginner to advanced levels, and cater to kids, youth, adults, and seniors.
“We really have something for everyone who wants to learn Taiko,” Koyano said. “We’ll be starting new classes here in August after our concert in June, and we welcome anyone to come join us.”
Proceeds from the June 18 concert will help Makoto Taiko continue its concert tradition, expand its curriculum to welcome new students, purchase and maintain drums and instruments, and continue its tradition of community outreach via events, charitable activities, and performances throughout Southern California.
The performance starts at 7 p.m. and will run approximately 90 minutes, plus intermission. Tickets are $20, $30, and $45 and are available through www.makototaiko.org or the Aratani Theatre’s website at www.jaccc.org/2022-events. Sponsorship and advertising opportunities are also available.
The JACCC’s Aratani Theatre is located in the Little Tokyo neighborhood of Los Angeles, at 244 San Pedro Street.
Makoto Taiko’s offices are located at 1465 Lincoln Ave. in Pasadena.
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