Kense Taiko…a little piece of the East in Kent
Kense Taiko…a little piece of the East in Kent. Birchington is the most important place in South-East England for a growing branch of Japanese culture.
All Saint’s Church on the Square is the home of Kensei Taiko, the only Japanese drumming school in Kent.
Our dojo, the Church, is a superb venue with amazing acoustics, and the spiritual use of the building seamlessly merges with the spiritual and meditative aspects of the drums…The teaching and organisation at Kensei Taiko is run by Kyoshi Bill Parr who also teaches Iaijutsu, another aspect of Japanese culture. Last year to our delight our band were asked to play at the prestigious showcase that was the 11th UK Taiko Festival in Exeter, alongside top Japanese and European bands!
A Brief History
Taiko (meaning drum or fat drum) were (and still are) used in Buddhist and Shinto ritual and meditation, and were used to signal in village life and in battle. In later years they were used in Gagaku,( court music) and Noh drama.
In the 1950’s, kumi daiko developed; a group of drums of different tones played to produce finite pieces for entertainment. The difference in tone is produced by the drum shape and size from the high pitched tsukeshime daiko, (a small drum with skin heads, tuned by tight ropes, specially laced) through okedo (larger roped drums) , nagado or miya daiko (barrel sized, drums) to the famed Odaiko which is a large, deep sounding drum.
Kensei Taiko uses the full spectrum of these drums to produce unique pieces, and beginners can progress to performer level to play them all.
Taiko are played by drummers standing in very martial art-like stances. These stances enable strong and versatile upper and lower body movements from stable grounding. Power and speed can be generated from the earth, through the lower limbs and body to produce strong, fast upper body movements. The drumsticks, ‘Bachi’ are thick wooden drum sticks that may be parallel or tapered, and from ordinary finger thickness to ‘rolling pin’ thickness in different types of wood according to personal and acoustic tastes. Our players use a variety of these.
Taiko can be placed vertically or horizontally; on stands to be played over, or at head height, waist height or much lower at knee height. Yatai bayashi style playing dictates that the drum is played seated on the floor with the drum at an angle between the legs, the drummer leaning back holding a half sit up position…tsuke shime playing can be performed from standing or kneeling positions. Less mobile players play to their own limits…it’s all about enjoyment, not pain!
It is said that in the rumbling rhythms of taiko speak Kami. (spirits or Gods)… In my experience playing taiko has produced in audiences elation, extreme emotion (onlookers describe ‘welling up’ with tears), excitement and the urge to beat a drum themselves!
If your curiosity is aroused, Kensei Taiko run beginners’ classes every Tuesday evening 6.30pm-8pm (do come try, all ages welcome) at All Saints Church, and play regularly at famous venues. See our Facebook page for a full and up-to-date list of our upcoming performances!
Our 2016 programme so far includes-
7th July, Eastry Church music extravagana
9th-10th July Sandwich Folk and Ale Festival, Sandwich, Kent
31st July Japanese Garden Society, Herons Bonsai Lingfield
27th, 28th, 29th August, Military Odyssey, the County Showground Detling
10-11th October Wood Fest, Belmont House, Faversham
Come, listen and feel wadaiko; experience the effects…anyone can drop in and play regardless of ability! Age range presently runs from 9 – 70+ so do come along, wear comfy clothes and bring some water to drink!
For more information, contact Sensei Bill Parr at:-
See us on facebook at – www.facebook.com/groups/kenseitaiko/