By: Sierra O’dell
On Saturday, March 3, the Bellevue High School Performing Arts Center hosted the fourth annual Bellevue World Taiko Festival, a program produced by Japan Creative Arts, to promote the art of Taiko, a cultural form of Japanese music that typically consists of drumming on different types of barrel shaped drums.
The mission statement of the program is “bring Taiko to the world,” and they have been realizing this statement by holding Taiko workshops and assemblies primarily in the Washington area, giving everyone a chance to learn from professionals. In previous performances, The World Taiko Festival has had over 1,200 people from all parts of the United States attend. The festival this year was particularly special, as Bellevue welcomed Miyake Geinou Doushikai to perform. The Miyake Geinou Doushikai Taiko players represent the supposed birth place of Taiko, Miyake Island in Japan.
This was their first performance in Washington. Miyake Geinou Doushikai is a unique Taiko group that consists of a father and his three sons, and there has never been a Taiko group like it. In 2017, Akio Tsumura, the father, celebrated his 40th anniversary as the leader of the group, and even though he is now in his sixties, his performance was spectacular. “It was truly an honor to watch such a talented group” said Lue, a former exchange student back from Japan, “I would definitely like to see them [perform] again if I get the chance.”
Another notable group that performed at the event was Chikiri, a professional Seattle-based Taiko group, led by the founder of The School of Taiko, Ringtaro Tateishi. Together with his wife Asako Tateishi and son Sohshun Tateishi, Ringtaro created a masterpiece of a performing arts group. Chikiri gave two stirring performances that had the audience begging for more. Davin, a student at Bellevue High school said, “I wasn’t sure if I would like [the festival], but it was really exciting.”
Another local group of artists that performed were the Cascades Taiko Drummers, created by the School of Taiko in October 2017, although they are relatively young as a group, they proved themselves as a highly capable, and skilled, group of performers.
Two other Seattle-based Taiko groups were also invited to perform at the World Taiko Festival, Seattle Matsuri Taiko, from the Seattle Buddhist Church, and the Seismic Sound, a group of young musicians stemming from Seattle’s All-City Band.
“It is great to see so many young people so passionate about [Taiko]. I love Japanese culture and I think that we can learn a lot from it,” said Angela, the grandmother of a Bellevue High School student, who spent the majority of her childhood in Japan. “It takes a lot of discipline to learn a skill like that, and I admire people who can put that much effort into something.”
Over all, the Bellevue World Taiko Festival was a rousing success, attracting like-minded people from around Washington and the United States to come together and enjoy the skill and passion of some of the greatest Taiko players in the world.