By KEIJI UESUGI
If you walk past the corner of First Street and Saratoga in Boyle Heights, you may hear the sound of loud drums. That sound comes from Yoki Daiko, or Joyous Drumming, a taiko group that was began at the Tenrikyo Church in 1996 when a small group of Tenrikyo church members gathered to learn a song to perform at an event held on the church grounds.
The performance was a tremendous hit, and the powerful energy of the percussions mixed with the melodic tunes of the bamboo flute inspired the members and friends of the Tenrikyo church to establish a permanent taiko group.
With the support of the church and assistance with taiko-making methods by local taiko figures like Victor Fukuhara of Kokoro Taiko in Long Beach, Yoki Daiko quickly built its drum collection.
By the end of 1997, Yoki Daiko began to perform at community events, and was on its way to becoming a part of the growing taiko community in the US.
The Yoki Daiko membership first began with Tenrikyo Church members, bringing family and friends together in an entirely fresh and dynamic way. Some families are represented by multiple generations, such as the family of the late Rev. Jiro Morishita, who built the taiko drum collection for the group in its early years. All three of his children went on to learn taiko through the youth program and continue to be a part of the group, and two of his sisters joined when Yoki Daiko began.
Through the years, taiko enthusiasts of diverse backgrounds joined the group because of their attraction to the joyous style of playing. Many of the current members come from collegiate taiko groups like UCI, UCLA, and UCSD, and have added new dimensions to the group’s repertoire and playing style.
In honor of the pioneers and supporters of the group since its inception, Yoki Daiko is presenting a concert themed as “Tsunagari: Connections to Our Past, Present, and Future,” which reflects the group’s musical vision to tie its first 20 years of growth with new creative ideas moving forward. Several songs from Yoki Daiko’s repertoire will be included alongside new numbers being performed by the group for the first time.
Featured performers of the concert include the children’s taiko class at the Tenrikyo Church, Chibi Taiko, former members from the early years of Yoki Daiko, and a special guest artist, shamisen player Terry Nguyen. This celebration concert is a big “thank you” to everyone who has supported Yoki Daiko over the past 20 years, and will showcase a wonderful evening of music and joy.
The concert will be on Saturday, Jan. 13, from 8 p.m. at the Aratani Theatre, 244 S. San Pedro St. in Little Tokyo. Tickets are general admission for $15 and can be purchased at the box office or through JACCC’s ticketing website, https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/981502.