Jodaiko, Cultural Night 1994.
Jodaiko Reunion: Members Past and Present, May 20 2012.
The Formation of Tomo no Taiko
formation of the group is primarily attributed to a pair of students,
Peggy Kamon and David Shiwota, who became the group's first directors.
Peggy brought the vast majority of experience to the group, having learned
from Tom Fukuman, taiko "sensei" at Gardena Buddhist Church.
Fukuman-sensei's expertise had been in Obon taiko (visually a very different
style than most kumi-daiko groups perform today), and in this way Peggy
had been trained. When Cultural Night was incepted, she and David laid
down the foundations of a training regimen that Jodaiko continues today.
In the summer of 1992, Peggy began teaching the First Generation of Jodaiko,
made up of Tomo No Kai cabinet and general members. The songs first used
for this training, Omatsuri and Renshu are still the first two songs prospective
members of Jodaiko learn. Practices were originally held Monday evenings
at the Kamon Residence in Torrance, California. The group, however, had
no equipment to speak of, and began learning the proper striking technique
and stances on automobile tires and wooden tables. Progress was very slow,
as few members had any musical experience of any kind, but the new members
of Tomo No Taiko persevered.
Tomo no Taiko's First Performance
preparations continued for Cultural Night 1993, Tomo No Taiko continued
to practice. The group debuted at UC Irvine in the Fall of 1992 at the
Annual UCI Rainbow Fest, with a generous loan of drums and stands from
Reverend George Matsubayashi of Venice Buddhist Church. The group's first
costumes, happi coats, were procured from Japan Airlines, and bachi were
made and given to the group by Peggy. By all accounts, the performance
was a success: Omatsuri and Renshu were well received by the audience,
and Tomo No Taiko had its first performance under its obi.
Night 1993 was a step up in scope for Tomo No Kai: in previous years,
all the Culturally Oriented Performances had been performed by groups
outside of Tomo, and were paid to participate in the show. It was in 1993
that Tomo members strove to present a show entirely independent of outside
groups, establishing the organization's current tradition. Tomo No Taiko
performed four songs that evening, split more or less evenly between the
twenty members that had been trained by Peggy. The first song, Tomo, was
a rearrangement of the traditional Omatsuri, gradually adding players
and increasing in tempo as the song progressed to communicate the power
of community and friendship.
Tomo No Taiko's second piece was titled Oni, meaning "demon" in Japanese.
The song was innovative in its presentation, calling for traditional oni
masks to be worn on the backs of performers heads while they played with
their backs to the audience, but it has since been retired from the repertoire.
The third song was a combination of two traditional obon songs, played
to accompany the obon dancers performing that evening. Peggy combined
and rearranged the two pieces, calling on her experience as an obon taiko
final song of the evening was titled Senshin, and survives today as a
portion of the song Nesshin, a piece performed regularly by Jodaiko. This
song was the first to include flipping bachi one full rotation, an element
found consistently in a number of Jodaiko's older pieces.
Tomo no Taiko and Asian Heritage Week
founded with the intention of performing at Cultural Night, the members
of Tomo No Taiko resolved to continue playing taiko for the remainder
of the year, and fully expected to participate in the following year's
presentation of Tomo No Kai's Cultural Night. However, an important lesson
was learned when the group planned a performance for Asian Heritage Week,
another Annual Festival at UCI. That year, the fact that UCI had such
a large Asian-American Population and no Asian Studies program was hotly
debated, and the theme of the Week-Long Festival was centered around protesting
this situation. The precise day Tomo No Taiko was to perform at Asian
Heritage Week has not been recorded; however, the quality of the performance
has been remembered, and it is far from inspiring. After Cultural Night,
Tomo No Taiko had abandoned the formal practice regimen that had been
the norm for the members since the previous summer. The members had agreed
that further practice was impractical, as it required a serious time commitment,
and practices for Asian Heritage Week began a few weeks prior to the event.
For a group that had realistically just begun learning how to play Taiko,
this was insufficient. Additionally, Tomo No Taiko had accepted new members
that had shown interest in the weeks following Cultural Night, and these
members had only the few weeks of experience allotted to them by the late
start in preparing for Asian Heritage Week. Ultimately, the performance
was much poorer than the one presented at Cultural Night, with members
dropping bachi and forgetting entire portions of songs. The songs performed
that day are recorded as Tomo, Senshin, and a rearranged version of the
piece Oni that had debuted at Cultural Night 1993.
experiences of Tomo No Taiko at Asian Cultural Week also served to highlight
an important philosophical question that any taiko play should consider
asking themselves. David Shiwota records that the Tomo No Taiko performance
was used as a means of drawing attention to the beginning of the sit-in
protest planned for that afternoon. Once the performance had ended, he
and Peggy Kamon took two of the taiko and carried them to the Chancellor's
office, improvising and backing each other up. The two directors of Tomo
No Taiko used the voice of the drum to support their own voices of protest.
is also recorded that both David and Peggy were criticized by the group
who had loaned them the drums for their involvement in the protest. Taiko
is a very powerful and moving art, and there are those that believe that
this power should not be used lightly. Others feel that it has no place
in political issues, that it is disrespectful to the Spirit of Taiko to
involve it in such matters. Still others feel that the power of the Taiko
can be used responsibly for positive change. This is a serious matter
all Taiko groups should make as a whole, and each person much decide for
themselves. Jodaiko has since participated in similar and loosely related
political events, and may continue to do so: but Jodaiko now maintains
its own equipment, and is free to make this decision without offending
another group that may maintain different guiding principles.
The construction of Jodaiko's first chu-daiko.
Peggy Kamon-Mato, David Shiwota and John Shen.
The Summer of 1993 saw Tomo No Taiko members return to the structured training
schedule they had developed the previous year, with the intent to maintain
practice year-round. It was this summer that the group adopted the name
Jodaiko in remembrance of the spirit of the original founding members,
Peggy Kamon in particular. Her original vision of a spirited, independent
collegiate Taiko group perseveres in Jodaiko today and while Jodaiko continues
to change in structure, demographic, playing style and individual talent,
the lessons learned in the first year remain some of the most important.
Jodaiko has since received a generous donation of six chudaiko and a single
odaiko from Victor Fukuhara, a respected and talented drum maker and Taiko
Player from Kokoro Taiko Kai. The group has since added shimes, and various
percussion instruments. Much is now behind Jodaiko, and a prosperous future
is in sight. But the first year is not forgotten and remains a model for
current Jodaiko members to look upon for guidance, both in execution and