Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Narasu, Summer Taiko Institute (STI) Day 1

I'm here in LA for the Summer Taiko Institute with On Ensemble. We had a great first day and I took lots of video clips that I'd love to share with you, but will have to upload them later--keep an eye out for them. I'll post a Twitter when I actually get them up.

Yesterday was jam-packed with lots of instruction and I really can't recapture everything here. So, my thought is that I'll take one thing that stuck out in my mind for the day and share it with you.

Kris Bergstrom talked quite a bit about "narasu" as he explained On Ensemble's stance when playing the drum. "Narasu" is the verb in Japanese for "to ring" or "to chime". He suggested that, as we consider our role in standing before a taiko, we think "narasu" instead of "tataku" which means simply "to hit" or "to strike".

Kris and On Ensemble's stance really focuses on connecting with the drum, rather than connecting with your audience. They accomplish this by creating a gentle space between your body and the drum as well as between your arms and the drum, focusing more in the drum's direction with your eyes and your upper body, and setting your feet up more vertically (right foot further back than most).

However, like everything they shared, everything is flexible depending on circumstance: What kind of mood does your song have? Do you want to show a connection with the audience instead? How about connecting with your fellow members? Considering and discussing the relationship your own group has to taiko, to each other, and your audience when playing, and then experimenting how to do this is a great way to refine your group's own style.

It's important to keep in mind that there's no one way to play taiko. I think when someone has only one or a few resources, it's certainly tough to keep this in mind.

But, if the above seems to ring true for your taiko goals, get out there and ring your drum!


  1. Let the drum ring... a good thing to keep in mind. My teacher, Yamada sensei, often talks about letting the drum "sing", or rather, "singing" your part, instead of just beating out a rhythm. This is one reason why, she says, kuchi showa can be so helpful. I also think the difference between beating out a rhyhtm/making noise and singing/letting the drum ring has a lot to do with the way your body and arms move as you play.

  2. Nice, thanks for sharing that, Brian!