Members of Mirai Daiko perform during the Cherry Blossom Festival in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy Mirai Daiko)
It's about family for taiko drummers Mirai Daiko
Close-knit all-female taiko group looks to explore old, new sounds at Aug. 7 show in Denver
By Joe Nguyen, AsiaXpress.com
Aug. 4, 2010
Mirai Daiko at Curious Theatre
Saturday, Aug. 4
1080 Acoma St.
Denver, CO 80204
$15/prior to show
$20/day of show
For more information or to buy tickets, go here.
ARVADA – It's about family for the women of Mirai Daiko.
The all-female taiko group is a close-knit family, especially since most of them are family. Sisters Shannon Umetani, Keiko and Meg Ozaki, cousin Courtney Ozaki and longtime friends Erika Tanaka and June Kurobane make up the six-woman percussion band, who will perform at 3 p.m. on Aug. 7 at the Curious Theatre in Denver.
"We're family – we've always been close," Umetani said. "And Erika's always been like a little sister who we've seen grow up. ... And then June, who's in the group now, she's an old friend from high school."
The first half of the show will focus on traditional pieces, songs they learned as children and folk dances, Courtney Ozaki said. But then it will move into a more modern, multicultural style as they will be collaborating with other artists, including an African drummer and a jazz-fusion saxophonist.
"The theme of our production is past to present to future," she said.
It also marks the return of Meg, who plays the koto – a traditional Japanese 13-string instrument – and the debut of their new odaiko which translate into "big drum." The odaiko gives more depth and creates more variety in their sound, Courtney Ozaki said.
"(It's) focusing on the big drum and how it's the milestone in our career as taiko players because we've been working on getting that drum for so long," she said. "And now we can focus on new collaborations and new efforts moving forward."
Growing up, the Ozakis learned how to play taiko with their aunt and uncle. Umetani said they spent several summers traveling to Disney World's Epcot Center in Florida.
"We all used to play with our aunt and uncle Gary Tsujimoto and Nancy Ozaki and they had a group called One World Taiko," she said. "And they taught us how to play taiko when we were in elementary school."
They continued to play throughout high school, she said, until their aunt and uncle moved to Seattle in 2001. The women stopped playing, but a gift from their late grandmother gave them another opportunity.
"Aunt Nancy found some money that our grandmother had left for us when she passed away a long time ago, so we acquired this money and we were trying to figure out what we wanted to do with it," Umetani said. "We decided that we all missed taiko and we wanted to still play."
The Ozakis used that money and in 2002, built their drums and formed Mirai Daiko. They said they became an all-women group because all the Ozaki grandchildren just happened to be female. Tanaka said this brings a good dynamic and different energy compared to other taiko groups.
"Not to sound girl-power crazy, but we've drawn on that female empowerment," Courtney Ozaki said.
Now eight years after forming their group, the women said they want to move forward and push toward more multicultural sounds.
"We're fortunate because our uncle, he has always been inspired by jazz, especially other world music like African drumming," Courtney Ozaki said. "His music, the majority has that influence.
"That's the type of cross-cultural taiko we've grown up with. We're doing the same thing, but in our own way."
For more information about Mirai Daiko, go to www.miraidaiko.com.