Kyo Daiko, Philadelphia’s only Japanese-style drumming crew, provides a heart-pounding experience.
“We got really tired of doing that,” says O’Neill, 50. “And it got really expensive.”
Troupes can charge $1,000 or more for performances.
“We decided we needed our own community taiko group,” she says.
They formed an arrangement with Settlement Music School, which provided a faculty member, Kris Rudzinski, to be the teacher and artistic director.
At first, they didn’t even have drums, which can cost more than $2,000 per instrument. Instead, they practiced on automobile tires wrapped in clear packing tape. With time, the group became more polished. They now boast 12 drums, including several imported from Japan, and around 15 members who show up for weekly practices at Settlement’s West Philadelphia branch.
Last year, they performed at 23 events—weddings, festivals, business openings and conferences.
“Every time we play, we pick up a few new people,” says O’Neill. “Anyone who wants to put in the time can be a part of it.”
In the spring, they’ll offer classes to beginners at the Asian Arts Initiative on Vine Street. And they’ll play at Sakura Sunday, part of the Cherry Blossom Festival, at the Japanese House on April 5.
Meanwhile, Rudzinski, 35, rides the group hard. “We don’t exaggerate our moves enough!” he bellows after practicing the piece.
A Rowan University grad trained in African and steel drums, Rudzinski spreads his legs, forming a low, wide base, and then demonstrates the exaggerated moves—snapping his hands toward the drum, sweeping the bachi in the air, ending in a striking pose with his right hand behind him, the bachi pointing straight back.
The students at Benjamin Franklin High School wanted to do a talent or fashion show, but the principal, Christopher Johnson, challenged the students to combine everything into a spring play. The result? A chance for students to empower themselves.