In December we were lucky to host Graham from the Australian-based taiko percussion duo YuNiOn for two workshop sessions. Some of our members met Graham and his wife Masae when they led workshops as part of TaikoFest 2015 in Auckland in November. Following TaikoFest they spent some time touring New Zealand with their family, so Jessie was able to arrange for Graham to come to Wellington for workshops on a Friday evening and Saturday morning, with some members from Taikoza attending as well.
Graham was a pretty hard task master, introducing a lot of core strength exercises into our stretches and having us work on straightening our arms during drills until I thought mine would fall off! He spoke about using the space between us and the drum, and playing through the drum rather than just aiming to hit the top skin, which was great to work on. He also watched one of our songs, and gave us feedback about considering the efficiency of every stroke and move we made, so as not to waste energy moving our arms needlessly, as well as considering the value our movements added to our pieces, and more notes on straightening our arms!
We also worked on the song Hanabi (Japanese for 'Fireworks'). Graham composed this song for a collaboration of taiko groups for Sydney Fest. It's a great piece that embodies children going to watch fireworks taking place, and great booms when the fireworks are lit. Having sections of solos in the song allowed us to work on our improvisation and composition, something most of us need work on! We really appreciate Graham giving us permission to play this song, so hopefully you get a chance to see it soon at a Narukami Taiko performance and maybe as a collaboration between the Wellington-based taiko groups! It was fantastic to learn from Graham, to socialize with him and some of the Taikoza members, and to further develop our team’s skills.