Fubuki Daiko
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Fubuki Daiko

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
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"Beat the Drum"

The Canadian-Japanese-American drummers of Fubuki Daiko are emissaries of a tradition that blends ancient origins and modern flair.

by James Heflin - March 17, 2005
When Hiroshi Koshiyama takes the mic, you don't expect to hear a Scottish accent. Neither do you expect his claim that "Fubuki Daiko" is Japanese for "if it's not Scottish, it's crap." But such cultural juxtapositions were the order of the day when this drumming group took the stage at UMass last week. And no, Koshiyama isn't actually Scottish. He's a San Franciscan of Japanese descent who lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with his wife and bandmate Naomi Guilbert, who's half-Japanese, half French-Canadian. And Fubuki Daiko means blizzard drums.

The blurring of cultural boundaries is certainly to be expected from such a group, which also includes Guilbert's sister Kimi and native San Franciscan Bruce Robertson (who, in keeping with the tenor of the evening, pointed out that he's the only member "actually from Japan"), but they are also playful emissaries of a specific, ancient tradition. All have several years of experience in that tradition, and three members studied with the renowned San Francisco Taiko Dojo, where they learned from Seiichi Tanaka, considered the father of North American taiko.

The anything-goes aesthetic made for an evening of constant surprises, a hard thing to pull off when a group uses primarily the same few drums in each piece. The tremendous rumble of taiko (daiko is a variation of the word, used in compound forms) might get uninteresting fast, but the savvy members of Fubuki Daiko mix tradition with innovation. Not always successfully, perhaps -- Robertson's piece paying homage to Canadian rock band Rush seemed awkward and even a bit staid in comparison to the complex evolutions of the group's more traditional compositions.

It may be that the intricate nature of the ensemble drumming -- a post-World War II take on ancient Japanese solo and duo drumming of misty origins -- is to be expected of an art form developed in the 20th century. And indeed, Daihachi Oguchi, one of the first to create ensembles with Japanese drums, was a jazz drummer. He set melodic patterns and different rhythms against background rhythms, using the drum roles as a symphonic composer might. Largely as a result, taiko offers a great deal more than dramatic pounding of big drums. Smaller, high-pitched drums often keep a constant beat while the larger drums weave in and out, creating melodies and patterns at times resembling the polyrhythms of West African drumming.

That separation of roles and resulting complexity show in Fubuki Daiko's playing -- against a set backdrop, one drummer might play a part that accelerates and decelerates, paying but nominal attention to the other players. The only purely melodic instrument on hand is the Japanese flute. Add to that the spectacle of the dance-like moves required to hit the drums with very large sticks, and you have the elements to make an intriguing show out of a minimal set of variables.

Seiichi Tanaka set out to make taiko a commonplace term in the West, much like karate or sushi. His San Francisco dojo is open to all comers for just that reason, and it's little surprise that his students would move to Winnipeg and spread the taiko word. It may not be for everyone, but this marriage of martial arts (Tanaka stresses its importance to taiko), dance and musical skill can border on dazzling, and there is, after all, something elementally satisfying about producing a thunderous roar. - Valley Advocate

"Fabulous Fubuki!"

Wow and wow again! The Fubuki Daiko concert at the Orillia Opera House November 3rd was an incredible musical experience, and I'm sorry to
report that more people weren't there to appreciate this awesome performance. Those that were in attendance know just how much more there is to an evening of Traditional Japanese Drumming that 'just drumming'. Fubuki Daiko are a tight group of four friends (and family) who truly move to the beat of their own

Musicality, Choreography, Drama, History, Culture and ohh the
The Opera House's Mark Hurst worried
whether or not he may have brought
these guys back to town too soon (they were here last year for an equally impressive performance with a similar audience response)...he may be right, but I think the biggest issue is letting people know what they're actually missing.
And they are missing out on something very special. This show has it all: musicality, choreography, drama, history, culture and ohh boy has it got rhythm! If you weren't catching this beat you must be dead because these rhythms are as contagious as they are well choreographed - each member of the group holding their own and moving seamlessly from one percussion instrument and location on the stage to the next.

All of the songs are performed from memory - impressive in it's own right - but with everyone's arms and drumsticks flying at precisely timed intervals it's amazing no-one lost an eye! Of course these four have been at this together for eight years now - Bruce joining the other three a couple of years after the groups inception in San Francisco a decade ago.

Based in winnipeg, Hiroshi Koshiyama is the only Canadian formally trained in the art of Japanese Lion dance - an element they introduce into the show with great humour and appeal to all ages. Hiroshi and fellow Fubuki member Naomi both also play the flute - a bamboo one at that - which adds a distinctive flavour and melody to the already intoxicating rhythms of their music, most of which they have
also composed.

Naomi's sister Kimi Guilbert is the fourth member of the group whose name by the way means Blizzard Drums - and that is a most fitting description. The arm muscles on these people are incredible - illustrating the physical demands required to play the taiko drums. When the huge drum is wheeled centre stage and beaten from both sides - each drummer with arms above their heads, muscles taunt,
gutteral yells inciting them on - it's unlike anything else you'll ever experience.

I came away from this concert with a new found respect and admiration for the art of Japanese drumming and for the dedication and talent of Fubuki Daiko. I have a copy of their cd Zanshin, released in April 2004, and I haven't stopped listening to it...I just wish I knew how to drum along! Check them out yourself at
www.fubuki.ca - Artsbeat~ Huron

"Fubuki Daiko - Taiko Terrific!"

Asian Arts & Culture Program's presentation of Fubuki Daiko recently thrilled hundreds of local schoolchildren and communitiy members alike. Drawing from a store of seemingly limitless energy and enthusiasm, the four-member Japanese drumming troupe swept up multiple audiences during its March 9-10 visit to UMass. Demand for the Thursday morning children’s Circle Show was so great that a second show was added, with Bowker Auditorium full and rocking each time for a total of close to a thousand children in attendance.

Canadians Hiroshi Koshiyama and his wife Naomi Guilbert entertained and educated the children, who ranged from pre-schoolers to high school students, with just the right amount of factual background, and drew children, teachers and parents from the audience to play along on the big drums.

In the evening, a sell-out crowd roared their approval of the traditional Shi Shi Mai, or Lion Dance, and the varied rhythms and moods of pieces ranging from Images and Atmosphere, and Furinkazan. The group was at complete ease with the audience and used humor, atheticism and sheer muscle strength to convey this traditional and fantastically resounding art form. The crowd whooped, hollerd and jumped to their feet in appreciation.

Quoting Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka, founder of the San Francisco Taiko Dojo where all four members of the group trained, “The essence of Taiko is not only the skillful playing of percussion instruments, but also the discipline of mind and body in the spirit of complete respect and unity among the drummers.” The group members shared this spirit with Springfield school students during demonstrations at SciTech High School and Van Sickle Middle School on Wednesday, March 9. " A Great cultural and musical experience." and "My students loved it; they even looked up its website and to listen its music online.", were some of the feedback from teachers at Van Sickle Middle School where Fubuki Daiko visited during their stay.

The kids were equally appreciative of the experience. Some students from Springfield's High School of Science and Technology told us how they felt about the performance, “The performers did an awesome job with the songs, I loved feeling the drums pulse through my chest. I hope I have the opportunity to see them again.” wrote student Cory Sorel, Krystal Harrison said, “The performance was amazing! It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It was a breath-taking experience. I could have watched and listened to them forever.” Student Tyrone Holt summed up his experience, “ Every piece was played not only on the drums but also from deep within. I personally enjoyed the performance and would honestly enjoy seeing it again!”

The overwhelming consensus among all who attended the shows or prepared for them behind the scenes was that this visit was exceptionally successful and the group members very easy to work with. - UMass Amherst Spotlight Online


Fubuki Daiko - a demonstration



Two ex- San Franciscans and two Winnipeggers make up Fubuki Daiko, a Winnipeg based traditional taiko (Japanese drumming) group. The group reinvents this ancient art form with their eclectic and energetic performances that are part martial arts athleticism, part meditation, and all rhythm. For over fourteen years, they have performed at concert halls, festivals, fairs, weddings, and bar mitzvahs across North America.

Collaborations with a wide range of groups including the Winnipeg Singers, Absent Sound, the Acromaniacs, Mu Performing Arts, and Northern Plains Ballet have continued to drive their never ending quest for excellence and innovation in this ancient art form.

They have shared stages with the Nylons, CAKE, Blue Rodeo and a ventriloquist. Fubuki Daiko’s self titled CD received a Prairie Music Award for Outstanding Instrumental Recording. Their follow up CD, Zanshin, received a Western Canadian Music Award Nomination for Outstanding Album... design.

Group co-founder, Hiroshi Koshiyama, is the only Canadian formally trained by world renowned lion dancer Nosuke Akiyama. He appeared in the Philip Kaufman film Rising Sun, and along with Fubuki Daiko's other core members, performed at Carnegie Hall while apprenticing with Seiichi Tanaka and the San Francisco Taiko Dojo.