Eitetsu Fu-un no Kai Concert - Precision Taiko!

Even though I was deathly ill last Sunday (Nov. 2), I did manage to drag myself out of bed to go and see the Hayashi Eitetsu Fu-un no Kai concert with my wife and daughter at the Ishikawa Prefectural Music Hall (a wonderful concert hall, and facility). I may have had a dangerously high fever, but, as is usually the case when I hear, or play taiko, I felt the sickness leave my body and enjoyed the performance with minimal discomfort. Of course, as soon as it finished, the fatigue and sick feelings were back. I am glad that I could go, especially because I had to miss the Fujimoto Yoshikazu (Senior Kodo member) workshop the day before.

I had seen Fu-un no Kai for the first time this past summer at the Exstasia concert in July. They performed two songs at that time. One was played on okedaiko, which they carried, but not in the usual katsugi style. In katsugi style, the drum is carried at a slight angle by your side. Both sides of the drum are played, but mainly the front of the drum. The sticks are also held in a different style. It is similar to a traditional snare grip in some ways. Fu-un no Kai's okedaikos were carried perpendicular to their bodies, with the drum heads facing sideways on the right and left. They also held their sticks in the standard taiko grip, only they were striking the drum from the sides, instead of from above.

This Okedaiko song was performed to open the concert, and their final number this time was played on five Odaiko. The Odaiko piece was also the closing number for the exstasia concert this past summer. At Exstasia, because there were four other groups performing, Fu-un no Kai was limited to only those two songs. Last Sunday's concert was only Fu-un no Kai so they were able to play two more pieces that I hadn't seen before. One featured an Odaiko player centered towards the back of the stage with the other four members playing yoko-uchi on two nagado taiko. Yoko-uchi is playing the drum from the side, instead of the top. It is similar to the way Miyake Taiko is played, but in this case, the stands were much taller, so the players were able to play standing up nearly straight, as opposed to the strenuous crouching position used for Miyake.
The other song featured four of the members all on Shime daiko. In some ways, the song was reminiscent of Monochrome, by Kodo, but only in very subtle ways.

As a general impression, Fu-un no Kai has a very conservative style of Japanese taiko playing. Many of my readers may have seen performances by Yamato. Yamato uses voice, dance and even comedy very liberally and freely in their performances (of course, they are also from Kansai/Osaka area, which is known for being more "fun" than other parts of Japan). In contrast, Fu-un no Kai's use of voice and movement are all very calculated and precise. Fu-un no Kai is a precision taiko group. All their movements seemed to be exactly in unison and it is quite impressive. While both groups (Yamato and Fu-un no Kai) are probably some of the top taiko performers in the world, their styles are completely different. There are also those in the taiko world who have fairly strong preferences to one style or the other. It was interesting, after Exstasia, the audience could see Yamato and Fu-un no Kai performing right next to each other, one after the other, so the contrast in styles was very clear. I talked to many people after the concert and there were about an even number of people who either liked Yamato and were not all that impressed with Fu-un No Kai, or else they loved the calculated precision of Fu-un no Kai and thought that Yamato was not serious enough for taiko drumming.

Personally, I find aspects of both groups that I really enjoy. But these differences in opinion are to be expected because modern taiko drumming does not necessarily have a very long history. It has only been around for 50 or 60 years, so there are many differing viewpoints as to what "proper Wadaiko drumming technique and style" actually is.

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