USC Kazan Taiko

By Erika Gomi

We’re so loud that the university doesn’t want us to practice on campus. This is one of the struggles the USC Kazan Taiko group has to face. We are always in need of a space that will allow us to play loudly on our drums. At the beginning of my freshman year, I decided to join the Taiko club on campus (Kazan Taiko). I had never done Taiko before, let alone a musical instrument, so this was to be a completely different type of thing than what I was accustomed.

Photo by Choo Yut Shing on Flickr

Taiko is Japanese drumming. We play on chu-daiko (a type of drum) with our bachi (drum sticks) that we make ourselves on retreat! Usually the main song is played on these drums and then a base beat is kept on the shime-daiko, a smaller drum like a snare drum. Taiko is a very loud instrument and it’s best when you play with lots of energy! We also have special uniforms we wear during performances. In addition to the club T-shirt that has the name of your generation (the year you joined – I’m part of the Wood Rams), you also get tabi (special socks/shoes) and special pants. Then during the performances you get to wear happi (a traditional Japanese coat usually worn at festivals) and hachimaki (a type of headband worn for many occasions).

I’m an Animation major, so I’m more of a visual artist. I like to draw and create short little films, not perform in front of people! But I also wanted to step outside my comfort zone and try something new. With Kazan, I was able to do just that while meeting new people and having a good time. Kazan Taiko gets many performance requests ranging from on campus organizations to groups outside of USC. For example, one of the performances I was in was at the Japanese American National Museum. Performances, even though scary at first, are a great way to improve your taiko playing skills and building performance confidence. I was so afraid of making mistakes, but I found that the mistakes I made in these performances helped me learn in the end. Taiko is difficult at first.  You have to learn to keep to the beat, memorize songs, and be comfortable performing in front of other people. But as I continued with the club, I grew more comfortable with the drums and the other members, who are all very kind and welcoming.  Overall, taiko has been a great experience and I’m so glad I decided to join. It has exposed me more to Japanese culture while at the same time helping me become more comfortable about performing.

Featured image from Wikimedia Commons

Erika is a sophomore majoring in Animation and Digital Arts. She was born in China but has lived in San Francisco for the majority of her life. She was raised in a multicultural family, growing up with Japanese, Chinese, and American culture. Erika loves art, especially drawing, and would be more than happy to talk about any films/movies or animations. She also enjoys playing soccer, eating food, and is part of the USC Taiko club.