Coming of Age: Chibi Taiko turns 20!
by Jacob Derksen
As the Vancouver Taiko Society’s website states, Vancouver is the birthplace of taiko in Canada. Vancouver boasts the first ensemble taiko performance group, Katari Taiko; the first professional group, Uzume Taiko; the first all-women’s group, Sawagi Taiko; and the first children’s group, Chibi Taiko.
Chibi Taiko was formed by Katari Taiko alumnus, Shinobu Homma, on his return from Toronto in the autumn of 1993 so that his daughter, Kayo, would have an opportunity to drum with children of her own age. In addition to having been one of the early members of Katari Taiko, while in Toronto Shinobu helped found Wasabi Daiko, and he has been an active member in the Vancouver taiko community for the better part of three decades.
Nothing as time and labour intensive as forming and leading a youth taiko ensemble happens in a vacuum. When the group was first getting off the ground, Shinobu was assisted by former Katari members Naomi Shikaze and Joyce Chong and from its inception parents of the Chibi kids have played a role in keeping the group running. That commitment allows head instructor Shinobu to focus on teaching.
From its humble beginnings as a just a good idea, Chibi has covered a lot of territory. In addition to having the opportunity to study with professional taiko players like Art Lee, Kodo members Eichii Saito and Yoko and Yoshikazu Fujimoto, and members of Los Angeles-based TaikoProject, they have also travelled to Japan, where they had the opportunity to study and play with Betchar Taiko in Onomichi, a small seaside town near Hiroshima. Over the years they have performed at numerous festivals, including Powell Street Festival, Regional Taiko Gatherings, North American Taiko Conference, Vancouver Folk Festival, Taikotronics, and numerous fundraisers including Ganbare Japan! in aid of earthquake relief. They’ve shared the stage with some great performers but now it’s time for Chibi Taiko to perform their very own coming-of-age concert as they celebrate their 20th anniversary.
To help make it a birthday celebration to remember, the twenty-plus members of Chibi Taiko (ranging in age from nine to 25) will be joined by several special guests.
Yoshikazu and Yoko Fujimoto are founding members of Kodo, and as such are legends in the taiko world. Yoshikazu Fujimoto will be familiar to Vancouver audiences as the drummer who for years concluded every Kodo performance with a marathn solo on the huge odaiko. Yoko is a founding member of Hanayui, an all-female song and dance group.
Both are longtime friends of Chibi and agreed to take part in their 20th Anniversary concert.
Seattle’s Inochi Taiko rounds out the programme. Inochi is made up of drummers who, like the Chibi members, have been playing taiko since they were youngsters. The two groups have run into each other over the years, hanging out at Regional Taiko Gatherings and discovering a common bond.
Join Chibi Taiko and their very special guests as they take to the stage on November 30, 2013 at the Vancouver Playhouse.
Jacob Derksen is a Victoria, BC-based taiko player.