Baby Bwogger Mia Xing went to a CU Taiko rehearsal, during which she dropped her drumsticks and almost had to do push-ups, which she doesn’t know how to do! Here are her thoughts on why everyone should learn how to play the Japanese drums at Columbia!
Hi, my name is Mia, I am a first-year, and I have no insights about this school but YOU SHOULD JOIN CU TAIKO!
During the strange week of NSOP, I spent many a night overthinking in my room about useless things like the future, family expectations, who is the cutest in my OL group, and how to best pace myself so that I wouldn’t finish watching Killing Eve before classes even start. Finally tired of my extra brain, I went to the performance showcase to distract myself.
CU Taiko was introduced as Columbia’s Japanese drum group, and the members appeared dressed in all black and started playing. They carried so much confidence in their form. And there was just so much swag in the sound and in the moments of stillness in between the movements. I decided that this was the most powerful presence on campus. I also wondered two things: How do people learn to do this and how do I be them?
Well it turns out, you can just go to their Sunday rehearsals and learn songs with them!
Last Sunday, I went to a CU Taiko rehearsal for the first time. As the Taiko team members were moving drums into the room, co-president Sachi Yuan(BC ‘20) took us through some warm-ups that mainly required jumping, counting in Japanese, relaxing the limbs and jUmpINg. She also hinted at the fact that Koh Yamakawa (SEAS ‘20), a faceless deity who runs the group, is a sadist when it comes to these exercises that prepare the body for drumming.
And then Koh emerged, floating into the room with majestic drums of many shapes and names (Mr. Melon!). He invited us to stay in a squat with arms outstretched for 30 seconds. But then he just started chatting away as we settled into the squat, later revealing that he was counting in his head. After the squat was over, my friend who came to watch told me that it was in fact 50 seconds.
Koh and the other students who ran the rehearsal were very encouraging and fun. Koh has been playing Taiko since childhood, and when encouraging us to do the shouting sometimes required in between drum beats, he told us that if he could scream and perform back when he was going through pubescent voice cracks, we can do it too. The club teacher, Yoko Nakahashi, is involved with the Taiko community in both New York and Japan and was WEARING THE COOLEST PANTS I HAVE EVER SEEN .
We sat in a circle and greeted each other in the traditional Japanese way. We then reviewed the song at the rehearsal before, which I didn’t attend because I was still a coward debating whether I should join. It was called (I think?) Skipping Stones, and while at first I thought I was catching up really well, I realized soon after the first part that I was a dumbass. My arms really hated my brain.
But the good thing is that if you are dropping in like me, you can still learn an entire new song. We were taught Sen no Kaito, with (cringy but mostly cute) mnemonics like “Ice cream, do-nuts, eat ‘em up quickly” and “ding dong the bell it rings ding dong it rings”. After running through a new chunk of the song, Koh always asks if anyone wants to go through it again and is always happy to do it.
At one point during the rehearsal, my bachi (drumstick) just GYRATED out of my hand. I then learned the dreadful news that since bachis are sacred you have to do 10 push-ups if you drop them! Since it was my first rehearsal, I was forgiven, but next time catch me gluing the bachi to my palms!
Anyone is welcome to go to Taiko’s rehearsals at 4-6 pm on Sundays in Lerner Broadway Room. If you are interested in becoming a performing member, they welcome you to go to their “jamming sessions” on Fridays, where you will be taught more intensively about form and technique. They also have this opportunity in November to go to the marathon and play taiko for hours to cheer on the runners! They also often get together to eat at Japanese businesses around the city. Join Taiko!