By Sue Ann Rybak
The pulsating beat of the Kyo Daiko Drumming Crew, Philadelphia’s only Japanese-style drumming ensemble, captivated the audience at Morris Arboretum’s Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival on April 14.
Taiko drumming has been practiced in Japan for more than 1400 years, and it was used at festivals, battles and as a means of communication over long distances.
“Kyo” means cooperation in Japanese, and “Daiko” means drum, which translates into a “community of drummers.” Kyo Daiko was founded in 2005 as a collaboration between Settlement Music School and Shofuso Japanese House and Garden in Fairmount Park.
Odili Donald Odith, a member of the Kyo Drumming Crew, said today’s performance style of drumming dates back to the 1950s when Japanese jazz drummer Daihachi Oguchi experimented with Taiko troupes. Three types of drums were used in Saturday’s performance: chu daiko, odaiko and shime daiko, which is used to keep the beat.
The festival also included a traditional archery demonstration and a Chabako or traditional Japanese picnic tea.
The Chabako was performed by Drew Sodo Hanson and Brandon Forsht from the Boukakuan Japanese Tea House and Garden. The traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony combines elements of Zen Buddhism within a social context. Four principles fundamental to Zen Buddhism Harmony – (Wa), Respect (Kei), Purity (Sei), and Tranquility (Jaku) –are incorporated into the simple act of sharing a bowl of tea. The tea is shared “in the spirit of peacefulness and harmony” Hanson said.
The ancient Japanese art of archery is regarded as the highest discipline of the Samurai warrior. Now known as Kyudo, the technique combines the qualities of heart and mind at the moment of the arrow’s release. Emilio Gravagno, who gave the archery demonstration, said the ancient Japanese discipline focuses more on the actions leading up to the release of the arrow and less on actually hitting the target.
Don’t worry if you missed Saturday’s archery demonstration – you can see an encore next Saturday, April 21, at the arboretum. Next week’s Japanese Cherry Festival demonstrations include a Kimono Dressing Demonstration by Fumiyo Batta, who will discuss the history of the kimono and demonstrate how to wear it.
A favorite of the annual Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival is a demonstration by the River of Life Martial Arts and Wellness Center in Montgomery County. The center will perform the ancient Japanese swordsmanship technique, Ken Jutsu, which was used by the samurai on the battlefield. Ken Jutsu is a sophisticated method of personal combat and strategy that has been adapted and applied today as a way of finding harmony in one’s life.
The event wraps up with the Japanese Garden Elements Tour. Participants will have the opportunity to see the Japanese influence on many areas in the arboretum, including the Hill Garden, the Rock Garden, the Fernery and the Overlook Garden.
For more information about the Morris Arboretum’s Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival go to www.morrisarboretum.org