How Hard is it to Play Shime-Daiko

We've been practicing taiko at Asano Taiko for nearly 14 months now. Up till now we have mainly been learning to play nagado taiko and/or Odaiko. But this past Saturday, at JIGEN practice, we learned that our next song to learn would be all shime-daiko. All nine of us (possibly 11, we may get two new members) lined up on the stage playing shime taiko.
We are pretty excited because we have always wanted to learn the technique for playing shimedaiko. It is where you can show how good you really are. Why is that? Because when you play shimedaiko, every little mistake, or uneven stroke is obvious. A group that can play shimedaiko well is likely to be a good group all around. On the other hand, sometimes a group that looks to be pretty good all around is exposed to be amateurish as soon as you hear them playing shimedaiko without the larger drums accompanying them.

You see, the shimedaiko are very high pitched and do not reverberate nearly as much as the nagado or Odaiko. With the bigger drums, little inaccuracies and mistakes are covered up by the sustained sounds. But the piercing sound of the shimedaiko holds a magnifying glass to your technique and stick control. I knew this already, but it was reinforced to me at practice, as we lined up the shimedaiko, sat down and our instructor, Yamada sensei of Hono Taiko, began giving us drills to practice. We played them all together, then we played them one at a time. Playing one at a time, as expected, you can easily hear all the little mistakes and uneven sticking. Our next big performance isn't until March, but even so, at the end of practice Yamada sensei gave a sigh and said, 「道が長い」loosely meaning, "You guys have a long ways to go."

This was no suprise to any of us. After the practice, it was painfully obvious that we had a lot of work and practice to do. Knowing the difficulty of playing shimedaiko well, and having wanted to learn to play it for a long time now, I had asked my older brother (drummer for Chicago Super-Band, the Detholz!) for some practice exercises and suggestions when I was at home this past summer, which, of course, he gave me. Now that there is some added urgency to quickly learn shime technique, we are trying to find every opportunity to practice these drills even just a little bit each day.

We are lucky to have a pair of cheap shime daiko of our own. Although they may not sound as great as Asano drums, they are sufficient for practicing. On the other hand, just like almost any drum, they are pretty loud and living in attached condos makes it difficult to practice. Our downstairs neighbors have complained more than once (oops). Anyhow, we are trying to find ways to muffle the sound enough so that it doesn't bother the neighbors, while at the same time, not losing too much of the stick action. See the photo for our latest attempt.


Asano Taiko Fall Recital 2008 - 今響きが風になる。

Yesterday we successfully completed the 2008 Asano Taiko fall recital. I played in three groups (four, if you count the finale) without making any major mistakes. After all the strenuous work, and moving large taiko around, unloading and loading trucks on Sunday and Monday, I am not even sore. My back doesn't hurt either.

The actual playing in three groups was not so demanding. Each group only plays for about 10 minutes or so. Altogether, that means that I played for about 30 minutes. Weekly practices are 90 minutes, so physically, this type of concert is not so demanding. What was actually the "hardest" part of the thing was changing outfits for the three different groups. For the first group, Yume Mitai there was plenty of time to change after lunch, and it was an easy outfit, white pants and a white sleeveless shirt. After that, I had to change into the JIGEN clothes, which are not so complicated to put on, but there are a lot of pieces to it: pants, shirt, blue thing that goes over the shirt, apron type thing that goes around the waist, blue and black cloth to be tied around the waist and black wrist bands, that need to be tied (It's rather tricky). Then there was Matto Bayashi. This is actually the most complicated to get into because I need to tightly wrap my torso in white cloth, which I need help doing. Then there is another sort of apron thing, a special kind of Japanese pants called Matabiki tabi shoes (which take some practice to put on quickly) and wrist bands. For the finale, the members of JIGEN wanted to finish the concert in JIGEN costume, so for the four of us in Matto Bayashi, that meant changing back to JIGEN clothes following Matto Bayashi's performance. So altogether, I had to change costumes 4 times. That actually exhausted me more than the playing itself.

Sometime I may write more about the performance, but for now, I'll just post a few more pictures from the concert.

Yume Mitai performance (I'm the furthest person on the right)

The members of the new group, JIGEN!

The "boys" of JIGEN

The "girls" of JIGEN


It's a Beautiul Day!

It's a brisk, October morning, there's a beautiful sunrise and today is a taiko concert. There is something about performing that I really enjoy. I'll be performing with three groups today, playing Odaiko for two of them. Mayumi will be playing in two groups. Can't wait.


Lost Luggage Update - ANA disappoints (but they did give us some money)

If you're a regular reader of the raion taiko blog, you may be wondering if the situation with our lost luggage/bachi every got worked out with ANA. If you're not a regular reader (why not think about becoming one?) Here are links to the previous entries to bring you up to date:

ANA Lost my Luggage

Lost Luggage Update

Finally, after a month of searching, ANA decided to declare our bag as officially lost and unrecoverable. (How you can completely lose luggage is still a mystery to me) So they said they would give us a cash payment to cover the lost items. Anyone who finds themselves filling out a claim to the airlines in a similar situation, be aware that you will not get the declared value of your lost items.

When we filled out our claim form, we added up the cost of all the sticks that were there to be 46,260 yen (or around 463 USD). ANA first said they would pay us about 35,000 yen to replace the items, and when I complained, they offered 37,000. What did I complain about? I complained about the nearly 20,000 yen we had to spend replacing sticks that were needed while we were waiting for them to find our luggage (which they never did). They still said they can't be held responsible for that and then offered to throw in the extra 20 dollars. I felt that there wasn't much point in fighting this because I didn't really have the resources or the time to pursue it to the end, so I agreed to the 37,000, a 20% reduction from my original claim.

A couple days later, the money came in the mail (yes, they send cash in the mail in Japan) and it came with a long letter of apology (in Japanese) and a release form. I am being asked to sign the form acknowledging that I received the money and that I will not ask them to give me any more money in regards to this incident. I haven't signed it yet, and I do not think I will until I have sent them the receipts from the bachi we had to buy while we waited for them to "resolve" the situation. I don't know that they will give me anything else, but if they want me to sign a release statement, they will first have to consider the inconvenience they caused us. And by consider, I mean, give us more money. After all, it's money we wouldn't have had to spend, had they not lost our luggage.

I have to say that over all, I am disappointed with the way the lost luggage situation was handled. All in all, it wasn't not difficult to get the money. I have heard of airlines taking much longer to pony up the replacement money, and once they said that they would send the money, it was here within a couple days. There was no messing around with vouchers for future travel or anything, it was cold, hard cash. Still, with the reputation that Japanese have for exceptional service, and the fact that I even wrote a rather long complaint letter, I was expecting more. Honestly, what I was expecting is that they would give at least a small inconvenience allowance to help us out while we were waiting for them to right their mistake. They didn't, and after two requests, they have refused both. I think I'll see if they'll refuse a third request.

At any rate, my thinking right now is that for our next overseas trip, I'll be looking for tickets on JAL.

I apologize to readers for ranting a bit about our lost luggage. I actually have a lot of taiko stuff to write about. So much, in fact, that I don't even know where to start... probably with the farting story. Anyhow, today is our rehearsal for the fall concert/recital and tomorrow is the recital. So I hope I will have some pictures and interesting stories to post about that next time, in addition to the farting story, of course.

Photo Credits:
Luggage Purgatory