Whether it is in the BRIC or on the Bronco Commons stage, Touzan Taiko never misses a beat while practicing traditional Japanese music.

Founded in 2009, Touzan is a self-funded and self-taught drum group that immerses students into Japanese culture while creating a fun and unique community centered around the art of taiko.

Cal Poly Pomona’s taiko group creates an energetic show with their costumes and music. (Courtesy of Richard Chang)

Originally affiliated with the Nikkei Student Union, the Japanese cultural club on campus, the ensemble had about 10 people before branching out to the Japanese Student Association.

“In the past two years we’ve had 22 to 25 members. This year there are about 20,” said Gabriel Romero, third-year electrical engineer major and Touzan’s external director.

No matter the size of the club the members keep the Japanese culture alive through their uniforms and communication.

They bow before practice and recite a Japanese phrase that translates to “bring us good luck and energy.” After practice they say, “thank you for accepting us.”

They also motivate each other by yelling a “kiai” which is a motivational phrase.

“[We are] hyping up other players by shouting at them in a good way during performances or in practice,” said Raven Ramos, fourth-year civil engineer major and third-year Touzan member.

The players have different uniforms based on their generation, or how many years they have been playing in Touzan, containing popular Japanese designs such as cherry blossoms.

Bright colored uniforms are worn for performances like the Japanese Festival during the Lunar New Year while darker colors are worn to compliment a song with a more serious tone.

“[Taiko] is different because you learn about the cultural aspect. You don’t need a musical or Japanese background,” said Ramos. “It’s really diverse.”

Taiko combines visual art and audible art through the strong sound of the drums pairing with the graceful strokes of the players’ arms.

Led by the creative director, Lauren Lee, a fourth-year biotechnology major minoring in chemistry, Touzan prepares for their spring concert year-round.

“[Creative director] is a very time demanding role, but I enjoy it as I get to see how the members grow,” said Lee. “Right now, I am looking forward to the new members we will be accepting in a few weeks! [They] always raise morale with the rest of the members and bring in a fresh dynamic.”

Touzan Taiko were all smiles when they performed at the 2018 spring concert in April. (Courtesy of Richard Chang)

Touzan practices about 10 hours a week over four days using drums made of trash cans and duct tape that imitate their performance drums in which Touzan has only six.

The club is working with ASI to raise funds for more equipment despite their innovative efforts through the trash can drums that they refer to as buckets.

As a performance group, Touzan has received great exposure from playing on campus at cultural events to performing at Universal Studios or at taiko conventions such as the Intercollegiate Taiko Invitational.

These performances allow the group to socialize with other taiko groups.

Touzan Taiko stands out because of their enthusiasm. Other groups are very serious whereas Touzan emphasizes having fun with performing well.

“As cliché as it sounds,” Romero said, “[the] people here are like my family. It’s been fun these past two years.”

Their next performance is Oct 20 during the Cultural Festival at Willie White Park in Pomona from 1 to 5 p.m. where they will play two 10-minute sets.

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