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  October Taiko Talk

By Sara Sherman

If you’ve seen Fort Wayne Taiko perform recently, you’ve probably noticed the addition of a flute. That flute is called a shinobue, or fue for short. It’s a bamboo flute that is often played with taiko because the sound carries well over the loud drums.

All 4 performing members attempted to learn how to play the fue when we traveled to Japan in 2013. Some of us were better than others. I’m slightly ashamed to admit I all but had a tantrum while struggling to get sound out of the instrument. I quickly realized I needed to practice this particular instrument alone. So, I let the other members attempt to play and I just watched and listened.

Late in 2014 I purchased an inexpensive fue on the internet and practiced on my own. I still struggled. I was trying to teach myself using common sense, tips from Jackie (who had been playing the fue successfully for a few years), and videos on the internet. While I was able to make progress (meaning I could make a musical sound as opposed to a faint whooshing noise that almost changed pitch), I wasn’t able to achieve what I wanted.

I wanted to be able to play songs. I wanted the fue melody to exist harmoniously with the taiko. I knew it would take time and practice, but I also knew I needed a teacher.

I met Harada Sensei in the Spring of 2017. I was traveling to Japan for fun, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn from a fue teacher in Japan. So, when I knew I was spending a few days in Kyoto, I reached out to the Kyoto Taiko Center and requested private lessons for fue and taiko. (As a taiko drummer, I was also not going to pass up the opportunity to play taiko in Japan!)

I received an enthusiastic email back asking what I was wanting to learn. I asked if they could teach me a taiko song that had a fue part to it and requested three lessons, two for fue and one for taiko.

Harada Sensei was the fue instructor. I instantly felt at ease with him. While neither of us spoke each other’s language fluently, we had the common love of music that helped us communicate. In one short hour, he had me playing better than ever before. I still needed lots of practice, but the amount of progress I made was encouraging.

It was during that visit that I learned a piece called ‘Omatsuridaiko’. I quickly fell in love with the song and enthusiastically shared the piece with my fellow Fort Wayne Taiko drummers. It is a joyful song that we play often. Every time we play it, I think of Harada Sensei and Hirobe Sensei, the taiko instructor, and send them a silent thank you for sharing their passion for taiko and fue with me.

This is a link to our performance of Omatsuridaiko during the Cherry Blossom Festival earlier this year.