Okidaiko

 

Goodness knows Aaron and I have been extremely busy ever since getting home, and to remedy that exhaustion we have been devoting our weekends to moving as little as we possibly can. I actually managed to wear the same shirt three and a half days in a row last week. I was sick at the time, but still. I thought it was quite the feat and am actually a kind of proud of myself. Also more than a little disgusted.

After getting home, it was back to the grind with Taiko (Japanese drumming). Our group’s 35th anniversary was coming up on Valentine’s day, so we had less than a month to prepare, and before going home I found out that I was expected to perform a song I had never learned.

Me looking at my name under a song title: “What song is this?”

“Oh, that’s Jodogaura!”

Me: “Huh?”

“Oh, that’s right. You’ve never seen it before!”

Me: *hrrnk of terror*

By the time we got around to learning the song, it was about two weeks before the performance. By the by, the whole song is between 14 and 18 minutes long depending on how sentimental the soloists are feeling at the time. Luckily, the song is quite repetitive and full of different solos, so it was rather easy to learn. On the other hand, it was sideways drumming so we were in low lunges the entire time (activate buns of definitely-not-steel), and we spend the solos sitting in an elevated seiza (think of the most uncomfortable kneeling/sitting position you can imagine and that’s probably it), so my legs took quite the beating.

Taiko practices changed from our usual twice a week to four times a week, and my stress built every day we got closer to the week before Valentine’s Day.

I should mention that I also had a demonstration class two days before the performance. So, add in several meetings, and demo rehearsals, and that was my week leading up to the the performance. My JTE and I nailed our demo class with hardly any negative crits. Aw, yiss. (Negative crits can be anything from “this kid didn’t have a partner” to “You didn’t erase everything off the board before you wrote something else” to “You said ‘change’ partners and it should be ‘exchange'”. And yes, those are actual crits.)

Saturday was essentially our dress rehearsal, and it went on for about 8-9 hours. After setting the elementary students in their places, organizing the set up and removal of drums between songs, doing full songs multiple times to get the stage lights right, we finally made it to practice for Jodogaura, my surprise song.

We were able to play it the whole way through, this time with the shamisen and flute solos. I had been desperately hoping for this because during practice we hum their parts, skip parts, and then have to recognize cues in the music to know when to jump to our feet and start playing. And let me just say that when the person mimicking the solos sounds like chan chan chakachaka chan chan chanchanchan chakachaka chan, it can get a bit confusing.

Now, during practice, my drum was in the front row on the far right, perfectly in line with the other two drums that were also in the front row with me. Upon setting up our drums and the bench for the shamisen players on the stage, we were informed that there wasn’t enough space for that set up. The solution? To put both the front row and back row in diagonal lines. With my drum being the one in front. Panic. My drum was just about two feet from the edge of the stage; I might as well have been sitting in the audience’s lap.

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A Japanese Shamisen Player. We had three sitting on a bench near me playing together.

This new development, along with the facts that my legs couldn’t hold a lunge for ten seconds without shaking fiercely (due to practicing so much the previous weeks) and that I had to grandma my way up to my feet after kneeling for fourish minutes, meant that I didn’t sleep at all that night.

By the time 3 a.m. puttered around, my brain was on its five millionth loop of Jodogaura, and I was convinced I would never sleep again.

On top of said lack of sleep, I was very painfully sick the next morning. Thankfully my awesome predecessor (who introduced us to this group, and who came back to perform with us) bought me large heating pads. I wore four the entire performance.

Aaron and I nailed our first joint song with the kids, and slowly the thought of performing became less and less scary until we got to Jodogaura.

Out on the stage, my drum was so far forward that I was unable to see any of the other drummers in my periphery. I knew the cues in the song to let me know when I needed to leap to my lunge and play, but the fact that I hadn’t managed to get one clean run of the song the day before was basically eating my soul. I was terrified that I would hop up too early and start playing on my own, have no idea that I was playing it all alone, and thus spend the entire song very outwardly confident and in my own world. Thankfully, I got the right timing, and was able to confirm it due to certain flares in the song when we had to lunge, look, and point our sticks in the opposite direction. I got to see one other person doing the same thing as me for a quarter of a second.

I also managed to just barely hop to my feet after kneeling for so long. I couldn’t quite manage to stay in a 90-degree-knee lunge due to how I hopped up but I still was able to pull off something close.

After Jodogaura finished with no mistakes, my nerves finally settled. We only had one song left, and it was the song I was most confident about. The only song I hadn’t worried about at all the previous weeks. I messed it up twice.

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The Grand Finale. 

 

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I will put up more photos when Boss says it’s OK to do so. 

 

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