Asian Women Kick Ass

Topics: Taiko, Feminism, Taiko: Drum Master Pages: 22 (8454 words) Published: February 22, 2012
Asian Women Kick Ass: A Study of Gender Issues within Canadian Kumi-Daiko Kim Noriko Kobayashi, University of British Columbia

(¡rholo by Steven Lj.'ma\)

The pendulum has shifted for Japanese Kumi-daiko or Wadaiko (ensemble laiko drumming commonly referred to as taiko). from a site of hyper masculine musical performance, towards a reinterpretation along feminist values lor female players. Japanese taiko (literally meaning "big drum') has evolved from a male-dominalcd and -dcfmed lorum into a femaledominated performance an within North America. The emergence of kumi-daiko in Japan was primarily assiïclated with masculine performances t:rystalli/ed in images of lean muscular men \nfundoshi (loincloth) furiously drumming on large taiko drums. Gender issues in kumi-daiko have been acknowledged and discussed among members of the kumi-daiko scene in Canada and America (Tusler 2(M).^). Mark Tusler' (2()(n) placed the ratio of women participating, as etnnpared to men. at 4:1 in North American kumi daiko (2(K)3). The city of Vancouver. British Columbia, approximates this high ratio of female to male participants, although in other parts of Canada some groups show an equal number of male and female participants.

The development of this high density of female participants in Vancouver's kumi-daiko will be discussed in a case study format, examining Canada's Hrst kumi-daiko ensemble. Katari Taiko. and the emergence oi feminist stylized kumi-daiko. Focusing on the Ibrmative days of Katari Taiko is instrumental in highlighting the framework that has continued to foster the large numbers of women engaged in kumidaiko within the local area, if not the greater urea of western Canada. Early Katari Taiko members played an important role in disseminating kumi-daiko throughout Canada via their performances and presentation of taiko workshops.' The taiko workshops that Katari Taiko delivered across Canada, in addition to taiko instruction, offered models of kumi-duiko organizational structure and incorporated discussions of tbeir group philosophy (Uyehara Hoffman: personal communication. 2005). Factors that encourage female participants to taiko will be examined as well as the possible reasons for the lack of male participants. Central to taiko's appeal for Asian women is the deconstmction of gender/racial stereotypes and the reconfiguration of gender constructs, and issues of gaining visibility. cuUural representation, and self-empowerment. Not only iire there a majority of women engaged in taiko in Canada, but there are also groups that have a membership restricted only to pan-Asian women, a uniquely Canadian feature. The presence of panAsian, all-women taiko groups allows them to align with feminist issues and creates a site for Asian feminist community building. The space of allwomen ensembles encourages the participation of queer (lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered) membership. Kumi-Daiko Background Kumi-daiko s development can be traced back to jazz drummer Daihaehi Ogucbi in 1951. Inspired by his jazz drumming background. Oguchi explored the interlace between jazz drumming and traditional taiko druiTiming in a series of contemporary compositions (Alaszewka 2001 ). Oguchi's performance of kumi-daiko with his highly intluentiai and innovative ensemble Osuwa DaIko at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics brought kumi-daiko nationwide attention in Japan (Alaszewka 2001). The growing popularity oí" kumi-daiko was shared by

other groups around Japan, most notably Oedo Sukeroku Daiko. ZlaOndekoza. and Kodo. While Oguchi is often credited as the father of kumidaiko. Tokyo based Yushima Tcnjin Sukeroku Daiko (founded in 1959) played an inHucntial role in the kumi-daiko style that developed in America. Sukeroku Daiko performance style distinguishes them from other kumi-daiko groups of their era; incorporating a side stance with a focus on speed, lluidity. power, flashy solos and a strong sense of choreography. This is a contrast to the upright...
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