The stage at Emporia’s Granada Theatre lit up Saturday night to reveal the large, wooden drums that Taikoza, a group from New York City, would play. Taikoza is based on traditional Japanese drum music, and director Marco Lienhard said half of the music is traditional and half of it is inspired the traditional music.Taikoza translates roughly to “drum group.”
“Some rhythms are a little more modern or from other cultures, so I sort of choreographed a few pieces and so it’s a combination of both,” Lienhard said.
An Emporia State student from Japan, sophomore theater major Yui Watanabe, said the performance was very Japanese in style and costume.
“I liked it because I think sometimes American people put Chinese style, Korean style, some of their styles, but this was Japanese style,” Watanabe said
The event was the first of the Emporia Arts Council’s 35th Performing Arts Season. Before the performance, Melissa Windsor, executive director of the EAC, announced that the gallery and retail store portions of arts council’s new building will open on Dec. 4.
Lienhard was originally from Switzerland, but when he was 17 he decided to do a foreign exchange program in Japan that was only meant to last a year. That was when he found Ondekoza, or “demon drum group,” an endeavor that was only meant to last three months. He ended up playing with them for 18 years.
“Once I was there, the gates opened and it was like, ‘oh this is fascinating,’ and I tried, I was only supposed to spend one year there, but after a month I was like I have to find a way to stay here longer and I came across a commune… I was planning to stay three months, but that extended a little longer,” Lienhard said.
Lienhard said that Taikoza, like Ondekoza, is a commune, meaning that the members all live together. He said there are currently 10 to 12 members, but they all have other projects and half of them are freelance. The group that performed included six members of Taikoza, Chikako Saito, Marguerite Bunyan, Malika Duckworth, Kristy Oshiro and Junko Kobayashi.
“When we have a concert I try to find who is available. They all practice my songs so they know and we work and then when we get together we work on the program that we decide to do,” Lienhard said.
The drum is important in Japanese culture because it is played in festivals and Lienhard said it announces things to come.
“They will play it outside so it’s something to be heard and that’s why they’re made out of one tree trunk, so that gives it that sort of boost and you can really hear that,” Lienhard said.
Watanabe said most Japanese play the drums for the summer festival. She said some of the drum techniques Taikoza used are very difficult and most people cannot do them for more than a few minutes.
“Many women play like this, but it’s very, very hard, we can do it for maybe three minutes, five minutes… how can she do that? Maybe you think it’s easy, but it’s not,” Watanabe said.
Senior theater design major Levi Howe said he has gone to the arts council’s performing arts series events before, but hasn’t seen anything like Taikoza.
“There’s a lot of culture and a lot of history here, so it’s a lot to take in but it shows you the culture from a different place, foreign to Emporia,” Howe said.