Drumming to a Disney Beat

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Takemasa Ishikura (center) is joined by his wife Yuko (left), his second daughter, Mayuko, Sayaka Kikuchi  and Atsumi Foreman. “We are just as if we are a family,” Ishikura said of Matsuriza.

By RYOKO OHNISHI, Rafu Staff Writer

PENSACOLA, Fla. — Participants in the 2013 Bon Fest Pensacola were invited to receive hands-on instruction in taiko drumming at the Bayview Community Center in  Pensacola, Fla. on Aug. 24 during the annual event, now in its seventh year.

The taiko workshop was led by the Matsuriza, a Japanese taiko-drumming group that has been performing at the Japan Pavilion of Walt Disney’s EPCOT theme park in Orlando for the past 30 years. 

The City of Pensacola, the Consulate General of Japan in Miami, Japan America Society of Northwest Florida and local businesses and individuals sponsored the 2013 Bon Fest. A variety of Japanese food, such as takoyaki, somen, anmitsu, curry rice and sushi, were served, and local volunteers offered children’s activities. In spite of the heavy rain in the morning, more than 300 people visited the center to enjoy the Japanese culture.

In addition to Bon Odori, the taiko performance has become the main attraction for the event over the past few years due to its close proximity to three military facilities, including Naval Air Station Headquarters, that have a community of Japanese nationals married to American citizens, a number of people who were stationed in Japan, and military retirees. 

The leader of Matsuriza, Takemasa Ishikura, says, “The audience is great here.”

During the workshop, participants were instructed that taiko drumming movements begin in the hips and legs.

Ishikura continues, “Learning to like the taiko is the most important thing for  progressing. It takes about five years to get good at it. Beginners  have a tendency to want to move from the wrists and hands. It is also important to have a beginner’s mind, which can be hard for those who have already learned other percussion instruments.” 

Matsuriza will appear at the 45th San Francisco International Taiko  Festival, which will be held on Nov. 9 and 10 at UC Berkeley. They  will perform along with Japanese and U.S. taiko groups including San Francisco Taiko Dojo, Sacramento Taiko Dan, Fushu Daiko (Florida), Osuwa Daiko (Japan), and tsunami master Tosha Kiyonari (Japan), plus Native American leader Dennis Banks. For information about the festival, visit www.sftaiko.com/.

Two sessions of taiko workshops were held during the Bon Fest. The participants, including college students and children, enjoyed their experiences playing taiko.

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