Mark H. Rooney and Ryo Shimamoto Work with Wellesley's Drumming Group Aiko During Their 2013 East Coast Workshop Tour

October 30, 2013

On October 26 and 27, Wellesley’s traditional Japanese drumming group Aiko welcomed two world-class taiko performers for a day of workshops and performances. Mark H. Rooney and Ryo Shimamoto visited Wellesley as part of their 2013 East Coast Workshop Tour, training and performing with taiko players around the region.

Aiko is a student-led ensemble practicing the art of traditional Japanese drumming known as taiko. Led this year by co-presidents Karin Darakananda ’14 and April Zhu ’14, the group performs frequently on campus and in Boston.

Taiko is a dynamic and complex musical form. “There are many different drum set-ups in taiko, even among drums of the same size, and each drum position has its own character and story,” said Zhu. The odaiko are the largest group of drums, usually propped up on stands. “Playing odaiko requires an extraordinary amount of physical strength and endurance, but also musical sensitivity since odaiko support a range of timbres, tones, and sounds. Because of the complexity and physically demanding nature of playing odaiko, you could spend years mastering just this one instrument, as you also could with 'normal'-sized chu-daiko or small shime-daiko.”

Rooney and Shimamoto are veteran performers and teachers. Rooney was the artistic director of Odaiko New England from 2008-2010 while Shimamoto is an internationally acclaimed solo performer who led the group Shippulichi Daiko in Japan for 15 years.

During Saturday’s first workshop, Rooney and Shimamoto worked with Aiko specifically on fundamental hitting techniques. During the second, the master drummers will train both Wellesley students and invited guests from the Boston Area on the demanding odaiko drum.

“This workshop was a crash-course on odaiko basics that will set us on the right path to improving our odaiko performance—short, but important. Aiko is very excited to have been able to purchase two odaiko stands last year, so we are eager to begin learning the art of odaiko performance,” said Zhu.

If you want to see Aiko in person, they will perform at the Spotlight showcase, hosted by Wellesley Freestyle, from 7 to 9 p.m. on November 8, 2013.