Nen Daiko has been delighting Washington DC audiences with their booming taiko performances since 1994. This August, for the first time, Nen Daiko will perform at Taiko Jam 2017 at the North American Taiko Conference. The group is one of three North American groups who will be featured.
The North American Taiko Conference gathers taiko players every two years. The first one took place in 1997, 20 years ago. The event has become a central element of the taiko community and is attended by virtually all of the taiko community’s leaders, along with hundreds of players from around the world.
Of the groups in Taiko Jam 2017, Nen Daiko is the longest-running group, the only one from the east coast of the United States, and the only one which originated at a Buddhist temple. Many taiko groups started at Buddhist temples as inter-generational activities for temple members. Members from Ekoji Buddhist Temple in Fairfax Station created Nen Daiko, which now includes both temple members and others.
Nen Daiko will perform songs that demonstrate the wide-ranging sounds of the group. One song speaks to the sometimes tumultuous path to Enlightenment for Buddhists. Another festive piece was composed for a wedding. A quiet song evokes the nostalgic feelings before a long journey. In the most dramatic piece, the group takes on the characteristics of a wolf pack hunting prey.
For Nen Daiko members, performing at Taiko Jam 2017 is a huge honor. Maya Horio was one of the group’s original members, and returned to Nen Daiko in 2004.
“Taiko has been a big part of my life for more than 15 years. It’s given me some of my best friends, my husband, a fun musical outlet, and a means to be reminded of the Buddhist teachings outside the temple,” says Horio. “Performing in Taiko Jam 2017 is a once-in-a-lifetime event that I never imagined. I am grateful we can share Nen Daiko’s history and enthusiasm with taiko players from around the world.”
To facilitate the trip, Nen Daiko needed to fundraise towards the travel expenses. Nen Daiko member Carla Brown sewed a quilt from Hawaiian-print fabrics. Everyone who donated towards the group’s travel expenses would have their name sewn on a block in the quilt. People from across the country donated. Nen Daiko is overwhelmed by the generosity of these donors and will meditate while holding the quilt before the performances in California.
For those in the DC area who would like to see Nen Daiko before Taiko Jam, they will perform at Obon Festival, a Japanese summer festival, at Ekoji Buddhist Temple on July 8, 2017 at 7:30pm. The festival draws hundreds for taiko, great food and a candlelight ceremony. Visit http://ekojiobonfestival.weebly.com/.
Taiko Jam 2017 takes place on August 12-13, 2017 in San Diego. Visit https://taikojam.com/.
If you'd like to interview Nen Daiko about this honor, please email us at email@example.com.
Photo: Don Smith, Obon 2016