In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Taiko in North America, Franco Imperial is collaborating with Taiko Community Alliance and three seminal taiko companies to create “Made in America: Taiko Voices.”
Taiko, the art of ensemble drumming on Japanese-style drums, began in Japan in the late 1950s and came to the United States a decade later, where it evolved into a performing art that combines music, dance, and martial arts. It played an important part in the Asian American political and social justice movement of the 1970s and 80s. A recent taiko census identified 700 taiko groups in North America, many of them formed without knowledge of the artform’s history. Taiko Community Alliance seeks to strengthen the network of these taiko groups in North America, encourage them to share traditions and repertoire, document taiko history, and support the art form’s development.
This project brings together three pioneering taiko ensembles: San Francisco Taiko Dojo, formed by Seiichi Tanaka in 1968; Kinnara Taiko, formed around the Senshin Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles in 1969; and San Jose Taiko, founded by P.J. and Roy Hirabayashi in 1973. Working with these founders or founding members of their ensembles, the lead artist will create a new collaborative piece based on interviews and a recorded “jam session” among the three groups.
Franco Imperial joined San Jose Taiko in 1998, bringing nearly a decade’s experience as a symphonic percussionist, marching snare player, and orchestral timpanist, as well as training in Samba, kulintang, and trap drumming. At San Jose Taiko, he studied under Roy and P.J. Hirbayashi and became the company’s artistic director when they retired in 2011.
The debut of “Made in America: Taiko Voices” was tentatively scheduled for late 2019.
Photo credit: Higashi Design