Uminari Taiko, Vancouver Island’s first taiko drumming ensemble, is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a concert at Spectrum School Theatre on Saturday, May 6. Victoria News file photo

Uminari Taiko, Vancouver Island’s first taiko drumming ensemble, is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a concert at Spectrum School Theatre on Saturday, May 6. Victoria News file photo

Uminari Taiko drumming to their own beat

Japanese drum ensemble celebrates 15th anniversary

When Gayle Nye was young, she didn’t like drawing attention to herself.

Growing up in a Chinese household, she often played quietly and tried not to make much noise. She describes herself as a listener by nature, rather than a speaker.

But that has changed in recent years since Nye became a member of Victoria’s Uminari Taiko, Vancouver Island’s first taiko drumming ensemble, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary. Founded in 2002, the ensembles promotes the art of Japanese taiko drumming through teaching and performance. Throughout the year, the group performs at festivals and offers taiko classes.

Taiko is an ancient Japanese form of percussion using large drums, which range in size. It’s something Nye came across more than a decade ago, while she was in Vancouver and was inspired by the all-female group who were performing in unison.

“It was just very exciting to see and to consider that a group of women could come together and make a lot of noise and have a lot of fun,” Nye said. “For me, it’s been a way to call on some energy, it’s a neat challenge to play and be physical, but to try and do that with some sychronicity with the rest of the group … It can really get into your core.”

With the sounds of the women beating on the drums still echoing in her head, Nye decided to try her hand at it, and enrolled in a taiko workshop on Johnson Street. After beating on garbage cans wrapped in duct tape, in place of drums, Nye was hooked and hasn’t stopped since.

Currently, Nye practices twice a week with Uminari Taiko, a nine-person ensemble, including seven core members of men and women and two apprentices, at the Gordon Head Recreation Centre. Taiko is more than banging on drums, Nye says, it takes the proper stance and the stick must be held just right to make the perfect sound.

“There’s a really good feeling of making a good sound with the bachi, with your stick, you’ve got to hold it not too hard and not too softly, so that it flies out,” she said. “The stance is important because you have to draw on energy from your core to hit.”

As part of the ensemble’s 15th anniversary, it is hosting a concert on Saturday, May 6 at Spectrum School Theatre (957 Burnside Road West) at 6:45 p.m. The event also includes performances by Satomi Edwards on Koto, the Furusato Dancers and the Victoria Japanese Heritage Language School Choir and Soran Dance Club.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for children under the age of 10, and can be purchased to ticketrocket.co. Tickets can also be purcahsed at the door with cash only and are $15 for adults and $10 for children.

For more information visit uminaritaiko.com.

kendra.wong@vicnews.com