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April Taiko Talk

By: Allison Ballard

I heard her say to focus my energy up away from the drum…I heard her say it’s not about the drum; it’s not about the point of impact. The rhythm coming out of the drum is just a byproduct, a result of what’s happening “up here.” You can shape the resulting impact voiced by the don by focusing your energy on what’s happening “up here.” That’s what I think I heard her say…

In March 2018, Fort Wayne Taiko hosted Tiffany Tamaribuchi for a three-day workshop attended by an array of local/regional taiko enthusiasts. This is the third year that we have hosted Tiffany for a guest artist workshop. And her teaching continues to deepen. Throughout the workshop, as a result of her guidance, I continued asking myself questions such as: Where and to what am I sending my attention when I drum? How can I direct my attention to create musicality in the moment? Where exactly is “up here” and what is happening “up here”? The group did learn a song that guided our process, but it seemed to me that the work wasn’t really about the song…the song was a byproduct of some other work we were doing. Work that was hard for me to quantify. So I continued pondering….

After two days of drumming with Tiffany, I took advantage of the post-workshop late-afternoon Friday sun and worked in my yard. As I tasked through spring clean-up, I pondered. I came to the conclusion that maybe “up here” was just everywhere and everything other than the drum…maybe Tiffany was inviting us to roam through the no-man’s land of the ether world.  And somehow, that journey would enhance my drumming and my musicality and the musicality of my group. Really? Wow! How fun is that?

“Tiffany said so,” I whispered to the early spring sun and the early spring dirt and the emerging early spring plants and when they all seemed to agree, I had myself convinced. What a great workshop! I was finally being encouraged to follow my natural inclination to wander through the void. Knowing how well I could do that, I felt excited about my future as a taiko drummer. This changed everything! If this was what I needed to advance my drumming, I was destined to be a rock star! Yahoo!

I went in from the yard and joined the early-evening social gathering taking place inside my house. Drummers mingled, music played, food was shared….I found myself alone with Tiffany in the kitchen and asked for clarity. “Is being ‘up here’ about sending my focus anywhere but the drum?” Even as I said it out loud, I realized that wasn’t it. (My garden had deceived me!)

The teaching wasn’t about letting my attention wander freely through the multiverse; it was about shifting my focus from the pinpoint head of the drum and the don to an authentic cone of perception that includes my body, my fellow drummers, the music, the audience, the environment and the swirling emotional exchange of the energy being created. The teaching is to not keep my focus sharp on the drumhead (or on that pinpoint place I tend to find somewhere in front of me when I drum), but on the salient features of each present moment. To not only be aware of all each present moment contains, but to learn to use my ready instruments of drum, body and voice to tell that moment’s story…that moment and now this moment and now the next…

No easy feat. A whole new drumming journey.

I am grateful for the teaching.

Thank you, Tiffany for the work!