The Four Principles
Four Principles guide San Jose Taiko’s pursuit of the young art form the ensemble helped define. As only the third taiko group to form outside of Japan, San Jose Taiko (SJT) founding members studied with the few ensembles who preceded them. Bringing back these valuable and varying nuggets of knowledge to San Jose, the company then established and articulated the four guiding principles in their early history, and they have since been adopted by taiko groups the world over. When applied, the group believes that these principles lead to “the ultimate expression of taiko, when the art becomes a part of our personality, a way of being and life expression.”
The four principles are all critical elements of San Jose Taiko’s unique style; no one is more important than another. “We believe that taiko is…the connection between the drum and the player. So at a certain point if we concentrate too much on technicality and we lose that feeling or that spirit behind the playing, then it becomes just the drum. They become separated. The player is just using the drum rather than creating a relationship with it.” Wisa Uemura, San Jose Taiko Executive Director.
The four principles are:
For San Jose Taiko, Attitude is the necessary mental aspect to the taiko art form. Primary elements are respect and discipline, although they are not the only elements. The group operates under a comprehensive concept of respect that includes respect of one’s self, other players, the instruments and other equipment, practice space, history, audiences, etc. They see discipline of body and mind as critical foundations for artistic competency.
Kata refers to the way players use their bodies when playing, interpreted by many as choreography, physicality, or the visual aspect of the art form. San Jose Taiko Kata includes elements that always apply (i.e., stance) and elements that change based on style and song. Players have called kata a way of “making the sound visual.” San Jose Taiko was amongst the first taiko ensembles to embrace the potential of the human body as part of their approach to their playing.
3. Musical Technique
Inextricably linked to Kata, Musical Technique integrates movement and sound into the aural aspect of San Jose Taiko’s style. For San Jose Taiko, this principle includes how to hold the bachi (drumsticks), how to strike the drum, and how to coordinate movements to produce consistent and desired sound and tone. It extends further to encompass musicality and expression of both composed and improvised rhythms.
San Jose Taiko defines Ki as “the life force energy that connects all things.” It can be loosely translated as “energy” and is often understood better in the US through the Chinese word “chi.” San Jose Taiko believes that this intangible energy can be heard in their playing and seen in their Kata. Often described as the emotional and spiritual aspect of the San Jose Taiko philosophy Ki is a way players can achieve oneness with the drum, other performers, and even their audience.