Taking Taiko to the Next Level

What instrument requires 60 push-ups, 60 sit-ups and stretching as a warm-up? No, not the clarinet, not the flute, but Taiko drumming. Taiko is an ancient form of percussion that still exists today. Originated in Japan, Taiko is a fast paced form of art that requires not only musical precision, but extreme stamina. A performance is amazing to the ears and a phenomenon to the eyes, as well. This past Friday, eight students of the Phillips community met with Master Elaine Fong for a Taiko Club seminar. At first sight, Fong doesn’t strike you as one who could play such an enormous instrument. However, at just 5’5” and 110 lbs., Master Fong can play a Taiko drum with more enthusiasm and energy than anyone on this campus. Despite her size, Master Fong was inspired to play the Taiko drums 20 years ago, after seeing a performance in New York, her home state. After watching the lone woman in the group out-drum many of the male drummers, Master Fong resolved to learn the drums. She joined a group in New York and ten years later, she created O.N.E. Taiko and now leads the biggest Taiko group in New England. Master Fong’s visit was the second of this year that the Andover Taiko Club, headed by Luke Cahill ’06 and Jardine Wall ’04, met with Master Fong for a seminar. The first meeting was for anyone interested, but this meeting was for the more devoted. Only the people previously in the club were allowed to attend, which provided for a much more intimate atmosphere and an over-all higher productivity. Master Fong started by teaching the basics. Grip and form were covered after a warm-up of pushups and sit-ups. Next, Master Fong had the students do exactly what she has her students of O.N.E. do. There were activities where it was “follow the leader” and the students repeated what Master Fong did on her drum. She challenged the strength, endurance, and over-all will power of the members and in the end, taught them a lot. There will be more meetings with Master Fong this year and hopefully each one is as productive as this was. Taiko is a very interesting art form and is very serious. None take quite the discipline and focus as Taiko, but none have quite the same power and sound either.