If you’re ever walking around campus late at night, say on Monday or Wednesday, there’s a good chance you may have heard distant, but loud sounds coming from near the Humanities building. If you seek out the sound, you’ll discover one of UCR’s performance clubs, Senryu Taiko, while they practice traditional Japanese drumming in The Barn Theater.
True to their claim, Senryu Taiko has been “making noise since 1998,” spreading Japanese art and culture as the fourth collegiate taiko group ever formed in the United States. (This is where you say “Woah. That’s historic.”) Whether it’s by striking their Japanese drums (called “chu”) with their pairs of sticks (called “bachi”) or shouting out words of encouragement in Japanese, this club is always making enjoyable music that anyone can get into, especially since “taiko is very emotional and because of that you get a different energy” as fourth-year biology major and performance director Jason Phan explained.
Energy. This was a word I kept hearing as I talked to other members, but I could already feel just by watching first-time taiko players hit the drums with all they had. No matter if they had awkward posture or hit at an angle that deviated away from Senryu Taiko’s established playing style, many of these students have joined the club’s bi-weekly practice from six to nine at night since the first week of school.
Remembering her own experiences, third-year psychology major and equipment manager Donna Feria recounted, ”I really loved seeing everyone having fun and working together and just making people smile … I felt their energy and that’s why I wanted to join.” Just like Feria and her fellow members, some of the students also hope to continue feeling this same energy as an official club member by trying out for it later this week.
Beside the energy that playing can awaken in members (do you get superpowers from this? Whatever it is, I want in), like Phan and third-year biochemistry major and President Jason Junio, some cited that their previous musical background led them to pursue taiko. Some “tryoutees” (a nickname given to all the students trying out to be Senryu Taiko club member) like first-year Victoria Do, shared that hitting thfe drum was a way to “break out of my comfort zone,” despite being known as a shy person. For third-year Jacqueline Noborikawa, hitting a taiko drum was her way of “trying to reach back to my culture. I’m Yonsei. I did not grow up with Japanese culture, so I wanted to try and experience it through taiko.”
Yet, while Senryu Taiko devotes itself to spreading the awesomeness that is Japanese culture (because there is way more about it than just anime), it does not only consist of club members from Japanese descent, but also those who appreciate the collective environment the musical genre inspires.
As a club, members spend hours together each week practicing their music, performing different gigs up and down Southern California, counting in Japanese when exercising, mentoring one another, fixing all their hand-made drums and costumes, creating new songs to play and much more. Junio said, ”Growing to interacting with the club members, I’ve generally seen myself … be very influenced by the people I’m around and I’m mainly around the taiko people, so that’s probably just the highlight (of being in Senryu Taiko) — just growing with everybody else.”
No matter what background they come from, all of Senryu Taiko share one similar characteristic — a love and dedication to taiko. From perfecting their signature “naname” or slant style, from hitting the drum with a sharp wrist and arm movement, from internalizing the rhythm of each song, from shouting the loudest “kakegoe” or from just bowing all together after a long practice or performance — its members are deeply into their craft and demonstrate it to each other.