Saturday, May 8, 2010
Wadaiko Newark pt. 1
The summer of 2003 was a time of great transition for me. Birdsaw had ended, Shards was starting to reveal itself as a bust (at least as far as any kind of Industry marketability goes), and I found myself spending more time sitting in my rented room in Union City, wondering if I was just going to have to stop drumming altogether.
In July, my mother called me and told me about a taiko drumming organization in Newark (her home town) that was giving classes. She suggested I attend one. With hindsight, I think that she sensed my frustration at having so many of my projects fall apart, and wanted perhaps to push me on to some new situations.
I dutifully began attending their Tuesday "Beginning Taiko Drumming" class, happy to be involved in some activity that involved drumming, and even happier to have it happen within a situation that involved no one I'd come to know in any kind of music scene previously.
The student body was made up of a nice mixture of adults and kids, taught by a friendly team of instructors: Terry, Sue, and Marie. These three were performers in Newark's very own Wadaiko Newark Taiko Group.
As part of a deal with the Newark Unified School District, Wadaiko gave classes within the town's Continuing Education Department, and in exchange were able to use a municipal facility as their class room and dojo. The instructors taught the students basic taiko drumming stances, sticking patterns, and beats. After a few classes, they realized that I'd been drumming for a while, and could keep up with them in terms of rhythm and beat memorization. I'd also begun to strike up an easy friendship with Marie. Her late ex-husband had been a Jazz saxophone player. We'd talk about Sun Ra's eccentricity and Lee Konitz's having had to work in insurance when his gigs dried up. We liked each other.
Towards the end of that summer, Terry suggested to me that I come to one of the performing group's Saturday practices and meet their leader and the other members of the group. I was happy to do so. It seemed as though I was stumbling upon a new gig, and however humble it's outward appearance was, at least I was going to be hitting drums with regularity.