Castleton Soundings hit with Taiko

Photo courtesy of Jamilla Buzzell

Burlington Taiko group performs the traditional “Lion Dance.”

Castleton Soundings events started off this semester with a bang, quite literally. The first performance of the year came from a local Japanese drumming quartet known as Burlington Taiko.

Restless students finally began to settle into their seats as the theatre lights dimmed signaling the beginning of the performance. The stage lights turned on highlighting the large Ojmie drum as well as two traditional taiko drums positioned on the front of the stage. An Okedō-daiko drum remained unused behind the timekeeper’s instrument.

Within the Ojmie drum was a light giving it a strong yellow glow that matched the rest of the stage lighting.

The performers filed on stage going to their appropriate drum. Before long, the timekeeper struck her instrument. The clang of the wooden stick hitting the thick metal sounded like that of cow bell clang. Three counts later, the performer began to strike the large drum in time, followed by the two front performers on the Nagadō-daiko (Miya-daiko) drums.

The timekeeper’s pace increased, and the strikes became more intense and the volume began to fill the theatre. The strikes against the face of the larger drum grew into a strong bass. Sitting several rows back, audience members could feel the vibration from the performance through the floor.

Just when it looked like the drummers couldn’t hit any harder, the timekeeper began to slow her pace until eventually each performer began to strike less intensely on their drums.

The end of the first piece came with long pauses between the final clangs and the lights fading out signaling applause from the audience.

“Taiko is Japanese drumming and 1,500 years ago, Buddhist drums came to Japan, unwritten history began at the same time. Before Buddhism’s arrival, there was drums as well,” said Stuart Paton, the leader of Burlington Taiko.

Paton began the group back in 1986 and is the only original member.

Along with Paton were Julia Davenport, Noah Patullo, and Alana Torraca.

“For me it’s a challenge. We’re a small group so I find it interesting and it pushes my own craft to be challenged with a small group. It’s an art form that I really love and I keep coming back,” Davenport said.

“We’ve done the UVM convocation forever now. It’s cool to put on a show and come all the way here,” said Patullo.

For new Soundings instructor Maya Kraus, who is also the dance professor at Castleton, there is a deeper meaning behind this Soundings event.

“I grew up in Vermont and this state is 96 percent white. I definitely felt right away when I was a kid that I looked different and maybe not because I was being made fun of or anything but I was being looked at differently and I was actually treated by teachers in elementary school a little bit differently,” Kraus said.

Kraus stated her mother was born in Japan and worked for 27 years at Castleton as the arts director. She is the one who reached out to Burlington Taiko and suggested they should perform at Castleton. Since then they have been coming down for the past 30 years.

Even though Kraus did not spend any time in Japan, her mother raised her on certain Buddhist philosophies and stated when she sees, hears, and feels Taiko she feels connected to it in an indescribable way.

While Castleton students may not have the same connection to the performance, they said they appreciated the event.

“I enjoyed the performance. I didn’t know what to expect but they made interactive at parts and fun. I felt good. I enjoyed the sound and the control and concentration the performers had, which made the sound uniform and interesting to listen to. The best part was when they brought people up on stage to play because people had fun doing it and as some were my friends or people I knew, it was fun to watch them get involved,” said Dan Burke, a senior.

Junior Emily Lopes was equally as excited by the performance.

“I definitely felt like I learned something about Japanese culture. I thought it was cool,” she said.

But freshman Davilyn Bourne had a different take on the performance.

“I didn’t like it. I think it was too much at once,” she said.

Bourne compared this performance to her registration event, Jeh Kulu, also a group of drummers, but she stated their performance was not as loud and as intense.

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