About the opening of ASANO TAIKO U.S.
by Katsuji Asano (November 14th, 2013)
Ever since I was a child, I grew up admiring my father’s figure as much as my mother’s, who supported him throughout. Surrounded by taikos as if it was a natural thing, I grew up listening to its sound; the workplace had become my playground.
Back at home, visitors would come and go, one after the other, especially foreigners (American, German, Swiss, Mexican …) Even then, I could notice how Taiko was known throughout the world and it made me feel proud.
What is it about Taiko that makes people want to study and learn about it with all of their hearts? After I graduated from university, I started working for YAMAHA MUSIC TORRAD, a company specialized in instruments importation, and, after a few years in which I got to experiment with multiple instruments that I hadn’t seen or heard of before, I was able to realized once more how splendid Taiko is and how magnificent Asano Taiko (浅野太鼓) is in how they help expand Taiko culture.
The first time I attentively observed Taiko’s world in America was during the third North American Taiko Conference back in 2005. I participated as a staff and was really surprised to see the local enthusiasm. The workshops were filled with passionate participants. It was a great event in which I got to see participants from all over the world and I felt in my own skin the infinite possibilities for taiko.
Right when in my heart the idea of doing something in America was growing, I married Julia Kato, an ex-American taiko player, and I got to know taiko’s situation in America deeper, all of which made my determination stronger. My plan took shape as I debated about Taiko’s world with my brother in law Yuta Kato, also a taiko player.
Nowadays, it can be said that Taiko has reached a point, both in Japan and in America, in which it seems stagnant. A lot of Japanese groups are too structured and have a style that does not allow feelings of any strength or spirit. On the other hand, in America, Taiko is too individualistic, and even though there are a lot of creative groups, I feel it would be better if they were stronger.
I figured, wouldn’t it be swelling for Taiko in both places to be able to take the best out of each of them? If so, how can we fuse them?
The answer was right by my side, my father.
My father was able to lay Taiko’s roots and grow them. He has risen the bar for quality and the capacity of different interpretations, not only by selling taikos, but also by supporting different groups, organizing and creating events, and, like so, helping a lot of people get a platform in which they could compete. He is a man that has cultivated Taiko.
Furthermore, together with that establishment of taiko culture, I thought it was important to create a taiko community, for which a headquarters would be necessary. A place where to gather information, or that can also function as a salon to meet and to aim that taiko’s progress. A place to play taiko carelessly, where you can play, and learn to experiment. A place to protect and take care of.
Particularly, I want to expand the characteristic sound created in Japan from a single piece of tree drum. I have strongly embraced the idea of allowing people outside Japan to meet the true charm that a taikos’ roar has with every given strike.
The resonance of the Odaiko (大太鼓) that even makes a person’s soul trembles.
The Shime (締太鼓) that shapes and colours each piece with its musical drops.
The Nagado (長胴太鼓) the indispensable sound structure.
It would be marvelous if the characteristic sound of the Japanese instruments could bud a new taiko culture all over the American continent through ASANO TAIKO U.S.
From Japan to America, from America to Japan, and the whole world, ASANO TAIKO U.S. was created with this one great purpose.
It has been 3 years now from the idea’s womb till its birth, 3 years in which I have been surrounded by an amazing staff. I was able to see new taiko battles, and also perfect the techniques that are not available in Japan.
From here on, ASANO TAIKO U.S., and its entire staff, will give its best to be loved by taiko community. Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu!
First Three Months of LATI
by Kristofer Bergstrom (October 13th, 2013)
The first three months at the Los Angeles Taiko Institute (LATI) have been a whirlwind of taiko teaching and exploration. Housed at the new Asano Taiko US facility in Torrance, California, LATI has taught over 160 classes since opening in late July. The pace is accelerating. This month, the Institute will teach an average of three taiko classes per day. It’s heaven.
It was late 2011 when Yuta approached me about Katsuji and Julia Asano’s potential plan to open a taiko facility in Torrance. Asano Taiko US would sell and repair drums and the facility would include sound-proof spaces for taiko teaching and practice. Yuta and I would form our own school called “Los Angeles Taiko Institute” (LATI), to be housed at the new facility. Equipment would be provided. We could teach what we want. My enthusiasm was tempered only by the implausibility of the dream.
Asano Taiko US opened on July 25, 2013, with a fully-stocked taiko store, on-site drum repair and skinning, and two, sound-proof teaching spaces with full mirrors and brand-new Asano instruments. The Los Angeles Taiko Institute has six professional taiko players on staff, and an ambitious catalogue that offers daily taiko classes on a variety of topics while allowing teachers personal time for artistic growth and touring. Asano Taiko US and LATI host workshops with special guests from Japan and across North America and special events that provide rich performance opportunities for teachers and students alike. With one-time workshops and drop-in classes, as well as full-time, professional taiko apprenticeships, LATI caters to every level of interest.
Pedagogically the Institute has made great strides as well. In addition to drop-in classes and one-time workshops, LATI offers 12-week courses with the innovative “7-4-1” structure. Students receive 7 weeks of intense instruction, during which the students learn rhythms, techniques, and musical concepts required by the course topic. This instruction period is followed by a 4-week “coaching” period facilitated by a separate teacher. The coaching period focuses on drilling, repetition, and self-directed practice, helping students fully incorporate the new material. The course culminates in a final “PEAC Week” where the course instructor returns to evaluate and celebrate student progress.
The 7-4-1 structure targets the long-standing issue “growth plateau”, where players feel like they’ve been playing taiko for a long time but not improving.
LATI’s custom-designed website (taiko.la) facilitates collaboration between teachers and the archival of class information. Teachers utilize the website to share class syllabuses and homework with students and design and revise courses.
The school repertoire is built upon professional-level, copyleft repertoire, meaning students are learning music that they are empowered to use in their own performances, and to modify, and build upon. Exciting pieces like Hachijo Daiko, Jack Bazaar, Dokokara, and the LA Matsuri Crashers battle structures, along with a host of compelling rhythms and movements for soloing, prepare students for performance in and outside LATI.
We’ve made great strides in the first three months but the Institute is far from complete. We are working on the evaluations for our first series of skill tests and the “LATIdama” system (“dama” means “bead” in Japanese). Students will soon be able to earn beads to represent mastery of specific taiko skills and repertoire. These LATIdama serve as prerequisites to intermediate and advanced courses. We are optimistic the program will be fun, inspiring, and challenging, but its development will require years of testing and refinement. We plan to add major features to the website as well. Taiko.la will eventually offer an integrated video system, allowing students and long-distance learners to review class lessons. The website will also offer a custom-made practice diary, allowing teachers and students to track and share their practice work. And we will soon be adding Shoji Kameda’s wonderful, “Watashi Watashitachi”, to our copyleft repertoire.
We have made great strides in the first three months at LATI, and look forward to making more. Asano Taiko US has provided the taiko community with an amazing resource and the Los Angeles Taiko Institute will do its best to take full advantage of the opportunity. Come join us and play!
Asano Taiko US
Los Angeles Taiko Institute (LATI)
Interview to Kristofer Bergstrom (LATI Head Instructor) by Taiko Source:
http://taikosource.com/interview/kris-bergstrom/ (April 15th, 2015)
Interview to Yuta Kato (LATI Principal) by Taiko Source:
http://taikosource.com/interview/yuta-kato/ (May 18th, 2015)
Authors: Katsuji Asano (Ishikawa, Japan) & Kristofer Bergstrom (Los Angeles, United States)
This article was written on: November 14th, 2013 (Katsuji Asano) & October 13th, 2013 (Kristofer Bergstrom)
Original language of these articles: Japanese (Katsuji Asano) & English (Kristofer Bergstrom)
Translator to Japanese to Spanish: Ion Díaz-Larrauri (Vitoria, Spain)
Translator to Spanish to English: Romina Roldán (Rosario, Argentina)
Native English Editor: Ai Matsuda (Tokyo, Japan)
General Editor: Gastón San Cristobal (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Author: Katsuji Asano (浅野勝二)
ASANO TAIKO U.S. Inc. CEO
Born on September 4th, 1983. Graduated from Kanazawa University of Technology (金沢工業大学). He worked at Yahama Music Trading (presently Yamaha Japan) in the percussion unit, in charge of the National education section for percussion instruments. He quit in 2006. On the same year, he started working at the Asano Taiko Company, taking care of the manufacturing and sales. On July 2013, he established ASANO TAIKO US in Los Angeles, hoping to spread taiko. Set aside from commercializing taiko, he is an event-planner and teaches taiko courses in hopes of building a bridge not only among Japan and America, but among Japan and the rest of the world.
Author: Kristofer Bergstrom
Nationality: United States
Kristofer Bergstrom is an accomplished performing artist and enthusiastic taiko teacher. After four years studying taiko at Stanford, Bergstrom spent three years in Japan studying classical Japanese dance, Kabuki shamisen, and ensemble taiko before founding the highly-acclaimed, contemporary taiko group, On Ensemble. Head Teacher at LATI, Bergstrom is dedicated to research of taiko pedagogy while continuing to compose, choreograph, and perform challenging new work.