Another Reason to be a Fan of Wadaiko Yamato

Have you heard of the group, Yamato? If you've been around taiko for very long, it's likely you know of them, and if you're a regular reader/visitor to this taiko blog, then you probably recognize that I have written about them before. (a visit in May, their concert in January) and you also probably know that I have called them "the best taiko group in the world". I suppose that point could be argued. Everyone has different tastes, and their are even different opinions on what is considered good/proper taiko technique. Still, this past summer, while I was volunteering for the Hakusan Exstasia taiko festival, I had a chance to meet and "work with" Yamato again. And again, they gave me more reasons to be impressed with not only their awe inspiring taiko performance, but their attitude and character in general.

They arrived the day before the performance (as did all of the performing groups) and unloaded their drums. Later in the afternoon, apparently when they had some free time, I noticed that several of the guys were helping to erect the huge flags (look for the pics at the bottom) we were putting up around the concert venue. No one had asked them to help (you can't ask the talent to help), it seems they just saw people working and went to help out. When they finished helping out with that, Takeru (one of the sub-leaders) came over to me and said, "Brian, let us know if there is anything you guys need us to help out with, we are pretty free until the dress rehearsal". Again, none of us volunteers would dream of asking "the talent" to help out with the "menial" tasks we were working on (not that guests/performers were stuck up in any way, it just wouldn't be appropriate), but it was impressive that Yamato would make that offer anyhow. I also found out that they didn't need to be asked to help out. If they were free, they helped us out without being asked.

I was most impressed on the day of the Exstasia performance. If you read my entry about volunteering at the taiko festival, you may recall that the skies began to cloud up around 11 in the morning. In the afternoon, only a few hours before the show, a thunderstorm came through, soaking the venue. The venue was a sort of outdoor amphitheater and part of the seating were stone steps. These stone steps were now soaked with rain and there was not enough time for them to dry before the concert began. We couldn't have wet seats for the guests, so all the volunteers were given old newspapers and told to use them to soak up whatever water we could from the seating area. We all set to work on this slightly tedious task with urgency since the venue would be opened in less than an hour. After working at drying the seats for 15 minutes or so, I happened to look over to the other side of the seating area. I saw every member of Yamato over there with newspapers, working as hard as we were to dry off the rain-soaked seats. Now nobody would have ever thought anything bad or negative about them, had they not helped out to dry the seats. But that they noticed there was important (however menial) work to be done, that they were glad to help out, and that they did it without being asked really impressed me.

It reminds me of something I just read yesterday in a book about being a successful entrepreneur. The book describes people who are exceptionally good in business are "...down to earth, in touch with the seamy reality of ordinary life." (Michael Gerber, "The E-myth Revisited). Even though Wadaiko Yamato has seen worldwide success over their 15 + years of existence, it's obvious they have not let it go to their heads. They are great, considerate and generous people. Oh yeah, and they are really awesome taiko performers as well.

Check out a couple pictures of Yamato performing at the 2008 Exstasia Taiko Festival.

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