KOBUSHI was founded in 1994. Most of the original members had previously played with Kiyari Daiko, Dallass first taiko group, which started in 1992. During 92-94, the Kiyari drummers were privileged to host two workshops taught by Yoshikazu Fujimoto, leader of the world-famous KODO drummers of Sado Island, Japan. We also learned from members of Yukyuu Daiko of Nagaoka, and the Omagari Taiko Dojo from Akita prefecture. The music that we learned from these teachers is still part of our repertoire.
|The beginning of the beginning: an informal after-dinner jam session in January 92. Yoshikazu Fujimoto of KODO on bamboo flute; Mr. and Mrs. Minato, founders of Kiyari Daiko, on Japanese percussion; Kent Multer on drum set.|
As the Kiyari group grew, some differences of opinion began to appear, and some of us decided to form a separate group. Such things do happen from time to time among creative people. In fact, KODO was started by drummers who separated from an older group; knowing that helped us to feel right about following our own path.
None of the KOBUSHI drummers owned any taikos at that time. Fortunately, we were able to borrow some from Dr. Robert Schietroma of the University of North Texas, as well as from the Ft. Worth Japanese Association and the city government of Ft. Worth, which owned two drums that had been given to them by Nagaoka, their sister city. All these people were extremely generous, lending us their valuable, hand-made drums for months at a time.
|Oddly enough, KOBUSHI's first-ever public
performance was in Houston, not Dallas. The Japanese comunity there invited us to play at
their Spring Festival in early April.
(Kay Piland, Maggie Matsushita, Tom Mogyordy, Masami Iida, Kent Multer)
Later that month, closer to home, we played the Spring Festival at the Japanese Garden in Ft. Worth. This is a beautiful garden, and one of our favorite places to play; we continue to perform there once or twice a year. All together during 1994, we did about nine performances at community events, fund-raisers, and outdoor festivals.
In 1995, the group became more active. We were approved for funding by the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, and did seven shows for the city at schools, libraries, and other public places. We did other events ranging from an exhibit opening at the Dallas Museum of Art, to a street festival in Deep Ellum. Altogether we did over 30 performances. By this time, we had our own drums sort of. We didn't own any real taikos, but we had purchased some inexpensive synthetic drums. Later, with the help of Ken Holmes and other drummers who were creative and handy with tools, we were able to make the drums look and sound reasonably good.
Spring 1995, using the synthetic drums
(Maggie, Tom, Masami, Kent)
1996 was another busy year, as the Sun and Star program was promoting Japanese culture all around the area. We did a number of shows at schools, and received another round of funding from the Office of Cultural Affairs.
In 1997 and 1998, things were a bit quieter. Since we seemed to be busiest in the Spring and Fall, we decided to become more seasonal, and take long breaks in the Summer and Winter. One asset during these years was the presence of Justin Kanoya, who had studied and performed with some great groups in Japan, as well as the U.S. West coast and Hawaii. Although he didnt stay in Dallas very long, he made valuable contributions by teaching us several pieces of music, and coaching us on our performance skills.
(Maria Candiloros, Justin Kanoya, Ken Holmes)
|Ken Holmes playing a drum he made from an old sake barrel. He also had the idea to cover the synthetic drums with a wood-grain material, making them look much nicer.|
Although KOBUSHI had quite a bit of turnover among its drummers during the early years, the line-up has been much more stable since about mid-1999. Perhaps its no coincidence that 99 and 2000 saw us return to a higher level of activity. In 99, we played at about a dozen events ... and one of them was the State Fair of Texas. Four shows a day, every day, for 24 consecutive days, on an outdoor stage: a drumming marathon. To prepare for this challenge, the week before it began, we volunteered our services to the Hawkwood Fantasy Faire, just to find out what it was like to do four outdoor shows in one afternoon. The combination of the two events added up to exactly 100 performances.
|At the Hawkwood Fantasy Faire, September
(Kent, Jennifer, Deborah, Martin, Jeremy)
During 2000, we created the original work Afro-Taiko, which is based on African rhythms, and features one African drum playing along with the taikos. This is the beginning of a trend for us. Most of the KOBUSHI drummers have experience with other kinds of percussion. Afro-Taiko is just the first step in a process of integrating other styles of music into our repertoire. Drumming is a universal form of communication among all human cultures; and expressing that commonality is part of KOBUSHIs mission.
In 2001, more doors opened for us. We were approved for funding by the Texas Commission on the Arts, which has enabled us to start performing in other parts of Texas. We also released our first CD, Samurai Cheerleaders; you can order a copy on-line.
In 2002, we began working with the Young Audiences agency, which provides arts programs to schools. With their help, we developed an educational program consisting of a performance followed by hands-on percussion workshops in the classrooms. We did about a dozen programs in various schools around the Dallas/Ft. Worth area in '02, and again in '03.
Craig leading a workshop