We’re happy to release the latest in the TaikoSource Interview series! This time, Ben spoke with Brian Sole, director of Great Lakes Taiko Center and its performance group Raion Taiko. In our interview, we discuss Brian’s journey to Japan and back, and how taiko fit within this journey. We also talk about creating a taiko school and a taiko performance scene, and how one carves out a niche for oneself in a the cultural environment of a region.
Brian Sole is the director of the Great Lakes Taiko Center and its performance ensemble Raion Taiko. In our interview, we discuss Brian’s journey to Japan and back, and how taiko fit within this journey. We also talk about creating a taiko school and a taiko performance scene, and how one carves out a niche for oneself in a the cultural environment of a region.
Kiyoshi Nagata, the ensemble’s artistic director, is Canada’s preeminent taiko soloist who has been performing in a career that spans 33 years. His principal studies were with Daihachi Oguchi (as artistic director and performer of the Toronto-based, Suwa Daiko from 1982 to 1992) and with Kodo (as an apprentice from 1993 to 1994). With the assistance of a Chalmers Performing Arts Training Grant in 1999, Kiyoshi studied classical percussion with Paul Houle at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.
Since 1998 Kiyoshi has taught a credit course in taiko at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music. In September 2003, he began teaching a public course at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. For eight years, he instructed two community groups, Isshin Daiko in Toronto and Do-Kon Daiko in Burlington, which he helped establish in 1995. Kiyoshi is also regularly invited by universities and taiko groups to conduct workshops and present lectures.
In 1994, Kiyoshi founded the cross-cultural percussion ensemble, Humdrum, whose debut Toronto performance was ranked fourth in Now Magazine’s “Top Ten Concerts of 1995”. He has composed and performed taiko music for dance, theatre, film and radio and continues to collaborate with artists from all genres of music including traditional Japanese instrumentalists.
We spoke with Kiyoshi in advance of the release of Nagata Shachu’s Toronto Taiko Tales DVD and a series of concerts April 7-9 celebrating this release.
During our conversation, we covered a wide range of topics, including Kiyoshi’s performance background, playing taiko in Toronto, the act of collaboration, teaching taiko in a university setting, and the troubles of recording taiko.
The Discover Nikkei interview mentioned during the conversation can be found here.
It’s time for another TaikoSource Interview! Returning to the taiko scholar sub-series we began last year, this time I interviewed Jennifer Milioto Matsue, Associate Professor in Music, Asian Studies, and Anthropology at Union College in Schenectady, New York. During our conversation, we discuss her background as both musician and scholar, her diverse research interests, and her work on taiko both as a researcher and as the instructor of a class/ensemble on taiko performance. Click here to access the mp3 and listen to the interview!
Jennifer Milioto Matsue (B.A. Wellesley College and M.A. and Ph.D. University of Chicago) is an ethnomusicologist specializing in modern Japanese music and culture. She has conducted research on a variety of music cultures in contemporary Japan including the Tokyo hardcore rock scene, nagauta (a type of traditional chamber music featuring the three-string lute shamisen), raves, the increasingly popular world of taiko (Japanese ensemble drumming), and most recently, Vocaloid Hatsune Miku. She is interested in how performers find meaning through participating in such worlds, with a particular focus on women’s roles in music making. She is the author of the monograph Making Music in Japan’s Underground: The Tokyo Hardcore Scene (Routledge 2008) and Focus: Music in Contemporary Japan (Routledge 2015), as well as several articles on related topics. She is Director of Interdisciplinary Studies and of the World Musics and Cultures Program, and serves as Associate Professor in Music, Asian Studies, and Anthropology at Union College in Schenectady, New York.
During our conversation, we discuss her background as both musician and scholar, her diverse research interests, and her work on taiko both as a researcher and as the instructor of a class/ensemble on taiko performance.
We’ve added another interview to the collection, this time with taiko performer and teacher Mark H Rooney! During our discussion, we talk about Mark’s taiko journey, his thoughts on taiko pedagogy, and how to move cities and maintain a career as both performer and teacher.
Mark H Rooney – the world’s most dangerous half-Japanese/half-Scottish solo improvisational taiko artist – studies, performs, and teaches taiko, a dynamic form of full-body drumming based in Japanese tradition. Mark combines this traditional foundation with a modern sensibility to create performances and classes that emphasize connection, reaction, and interaction.
During our discussion, we talk about Mark’s taiko journey, his thoughts on taiko pedagogy, and how to move cities and maintain a career as both performer and teacher.
Chiara is a researcher, percussionist, and educator interested in the construction of identity processes. Currently she is working on her thesis at the University of Milan, where she is writing about taiko.
In our discussion, we talk about her performance background, her experiences both as a taiko educator and performer, and the cross-cultural observations she’s made while studying taiko in Europe, Japan, and the United States.
Click on this link to visit the page for Ben’s interview with Angela Ahlgren, Assistant Professor in the Department of Theatre and Film at Bowling Green State University. Angie is both a taiko performer and a taiko scholar, and over the course of our conversation we talk about how both realms have intersected with each other.
Angela K. Ahlgren is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Theatre and Film at Bowling Green State University. Her research and teaching interests include Theater History and Performance Studies; Asian American Theater and Performance; Gender, Sexuality, and Race in Performance; and Critical Dance Studies. Her writing appears in Contemporary Directions in Asian American Dance, edited by Yutian Wong (University of Wisconsin Press, 2016) and the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism (March 2011), and is forthcoming in Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture, and Meanings and Makings of Queer Dance, edited by Clare Croft (Oxford University Press). Her manuscript, Drumming Asian America: Taiko, Performance, and Cultural Politics, is under review at Oxford University Press.
Before joining the BGSU faculty, Angela held faculty positions at Texas A&M University and Ohio University. She earned her PhD in Performance as Public Practice from the University of Texas at Austin.
In this interview, we talk about Angie’s history as both taiko performer and taiko scholar, how each has informed the other, and her current work.
Angie’s latest essay, entitled “Butch Bodies, Big Drums: Queering North American Taiko,” was just published in the latest issue of Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture. It is available for reading on Project Muse.