This is how the second half of Ondekoza World Fest tour started.
On January 30, 2019, the coldest temperature of -33 F° hit Chicago. O’Hare Airport was shut down for all outgoing flights, allowing only incoming international flights to land. The international terminal was unusually quiet, but Ondekoza members arrived on time. We exchanged formal Japanese greetings and I escorted them to the car. They took one breath of outdoor air and exclaimed, “Wow, this is cold!!!” Immediately we drove to the hotel.
Reception at the Whiting in Flint, Michigan.
Ondekoza’s Taiko instruments were shipped separately by boat. The crate left Japan 2 months ago, but it had not arrived yet. Ken was on the phone hourly to see if anyone could somehow expedite the delivery. Four Ondekoza members and I left for Muskegon, Michigan the following day and Ken and Naoto waited another day, hoping they would be able to pick up the drums. Driving to Muskegon was brutal in the blizzard… we witnessed a few accidents on the road. We arrived to the hotel safely. Whew! The weather has not been cooperative so far. Muskegon schools were closed due to the snow and cold temperature. The school concert was also cancelled! We were stuck in the hotel in Muskegon.
The Taiko drums were finally released from the warehouse! Ken and Naoto loaded them up on the van and drove to Muskegon late Saturday night. Sunday we all headed out to Flint, Michigan.
Monday, February 4th was the first workshop on this tour. Loe’l Murphy escorted us to Genesee STEM Academy. Students sat on the floor quietly and waited.
First workshop at Columbiaville school. All photos by Shigeyo Henriquez.
Then suddenly came a loud, “BANG!” Everyone screamed “WOW!” and covered their ears as if they’ve been hit by big thunder blasts. Drumming went on – the students were mesmerized with the sounds of Taiko and fascinated by the movements of the drummers. I love seeing students’ faces and expressions. They have never seen anything like Taiko drumming before.
This is how Taiko is tightened in order to release clear sounds.
After the first piece, Naoto steps in front and greets them in Japanese. He teaches a few Japanese words and explains Taiko, a brief history of Ondekoza, and what their lives are like being Taiko drummers. A few songs were demonstrated and Naoto asks if it’s time for some of them to experience the Taiko drumming. Without hesitation just about all of the students raise their hands. A dozen students were given two drum sticks and were asked to stand around the Taiko drums. Naoto instructs them the proper way to hit Taiko and the students hit the drums once. Naoto explains the most important thing is to breath deep and hit all at once. Students are then instructed to hit Taiko as hard as they can for one minute. They hit and hit… 30 seconds goes by, everyone become slower and showing tiredness. Naoto says, “STOP!” Everyone exclaims, “This is hard! That was the longest one minute.” Towards the end we leave a few minutes for questions and answers. A question came from a fourth grader, “How did Taiko drumming become a performing arts?” Naoto replied “Taiko was traditionally used for ceremonial events. Ondekoza started 50 years ago to use Taiko as a new type of performing arts.”
Durant Tuuri Mott School in Flint, Michigan.
Photo with Chris Collins, Community School Director at Durant Tuuri Mott School, and Dena Johnson, Program Associate at Communities First, Inc., Flint.
State Road School in Fenton. The principal joined in to drum among the students. He acknowledges that drumming requires stamina, endurance, discipline and coordination of each players.
Students love playing the Taiko drums!
On Wednesday, February 6, three workshops were scheduled. However, starting at midnight, cold rain turned to ice. By morning, thick ice covered every road and sidewalk. Severe weather made schools and businesses close again. We are so sorry for not being able to visit Marion Crouse Center and Brendle Elementary school.
The Public Concert was held at the amazing Whiting Theatre. Audience of all ages were excited and truly enjoyed Ondekoza’s performance. After the concert, the lobby was filled with enthusiastic audience wanting to meet the drummers in person.
The show starts.
The drummers are in their best physical shape. Their daily routine of exercises is a must.