From left to right: Rafael Baltazar, Ixchel Maston, Brayden Tanji, Nicole Miyoshi, Anthony Codina, Brandon Tseng, Jonathan Tanaka, Carter Campos, Estella Hyunh, Ty Wakahiro, Kirsten Wong. | Courtesy of Len Morales

Touzan Taiko spreads Japanese culture throughout CPP

By Gerardo Sanchez, April 16, 2024

Drums line the stage as students gather outside the Bronco Recreation and Intramural Complex as Touzan Taiko prepares to spread Japanese culture throughout Cal Poly Pomona through the art of taiko.

Touzan Taiko in their starting form. | Courtesy of Len Morales

“I remember like five years ago when I was first on CPP before the pandemic, I saw them practicing before they had tryouts. They were practicing in front of the B.R.I.C. on the stage and I thought it was so cool. My schedule didn’t line up but after the pandemic, finding out their schedule lined up with mine, I took the chance and I got into the club,” said External Director and architecture student Aiko Masaki.

Taiko refers to a broad range of Japanese percussion instruments. However, the art of taiko involves playing different types of drums while maintaining proper form and visual movements. With these fundamentals, Touzan Taiko performs music while telling the story woven into rhythms and visuals.

Founded in 2009, Touzan Taiko is CPP’s collegiate taiko group. The organization is self-funded and self-trained while performing at various events and festivals. The group currently consists of 15 members split across four generations. As new members are admitted, new generations are created that the members belong to.

The group performs at various cultural and non-cultural events and festivals, as well as offering the option to request a performance. In addition to events and festivals, Touzan Taiko also performs with other collegiate and professional taiko groups. Hours of practice are needed to make their music presentable to a high-quality standard, whether the performance be a concert or a requested gig.

Touzan Taiko practicing. | Courtesy of Len Morales

Rehearsals consist of three separate days, one only with new members, one with returning members and one joint rehearsal. Rehearsals consist of learning music, visual drills and repping a set list for performances. “The amount of work we have to do depends on the performance,” said Secretary and computer science student  Brayden Tanji. “

The art of taiko has its roots deep within Japanese culture, and Touzan Taiko tries to honor those roots through their performances as well as the culture and community the organization fosters inside and outside of CPP, as explained by Masaki.

“Some say it was originally for war or battles and some say it was originally just for festivals,” said Masaki. “There’s also some purposes where it was used for religious events, so it’s kind of a wide art practice in Japan.”

Touzan Taiko aims to continue growing a healthy and supportive community within the group as new members are admitted.

Students interested in joining must have both visual and music abilities and a passion for the art of taiko. They also must attend clinics, which are held in October of the fall 2024 semester.

From these clinics, students will be able to audition for the group where those who make it will be admitted into Touzan Taiko as the newest generation of players. Equipment is provided, however owning a pair of the drumsticks used is recommended. Students will then be asked to learn and perform a piece with a partner to demonstrate their playing ability and visual capabilities.

“What we are looking for in new drummers is excitement and energy in our club because that’s what the main driving force of our club is. Taiko is for anyone, with or without experience. I came into taiko with zero experience, but the group had a welcoming community and gave me opportunities to invest into the culture and to be able to socialize and interact with people around the community,” said business administration student Estella Huynh. “I was very quiet and wouldn’t say anything and it just slowly brought me out of my shell because you get to see so many different people and how Japanese culture is really highlighted and deeply rooted within not only us but also within our own little communities.”

Touzan Taiko has begun preparing for the fall semester in the hopes of recruiting new members.

“Just go for it,” said Masaki. “Know that it’s a big time commitment but I think it’s definitely worth it. Ever since joining, it’s been positive experience after positive experience. We’d be really happy to have you.”

From left to right: Rafael Baltazar, Ixchel Maston, Brayden Tanji, Nicole Miyoshi, Anthony Codina, Brandon Tseng, Jonathan Tanaka, Carter Campos, Estella Hyunh, Ty Wakahiro,
Kirsten Wong. | Courtesy of Len Morales

Feature image courtesy of Len Morales 

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