There’s one activity that I’m sure will get your heart racing, your mind buzzing, and your eyes sparkling – and all in a good way. It’s Taiko drumming. 😀
“We feel that Taiko drumming is a way of life,” says Wang Junyong, the founder and chief trainer of Mangrove Learning – a social enterprise in Singapore that creates, develops and conducts programmes such as School of Daiko (which includes Boom4Team, Taiko4Youth and Taiko4Families), School of Social Entrepreneurship (which provides assistance to budding social entrepreneurs in the form of talks and workshops), and School of Specialised Arts (which offers music and art-related activities to people with special needs).
“Besides learning musical skills, Taiko drumming is also about reflecting and understanding yourself. You’d be surprised at how many values and life skills you can gain from leaning Taiko.”
Actually, we’re not – because we’ve seen how Mangrove Learning instils a love of learning in people, and in the process boosts their confidence and self-esteem. Junyong is grateful to his team of trainers for helping Mangrove Learning achieve all that and more. In fact, he wants to speak on their behalf.
“The loud sound of the drums, and the coordinated movements of the performers, attracted our trainers to the art form,” Junyong adds.
“But we don’t see Taiko drumming as just an art form. It’s about building a community. We’re not here to perfect a performance or produce an outstanding performer – we’re here because we know how Taiko drumming can impact someone’s life.”
Strike it up
Of course, there’s just something about the drums that gets people’s attention – and up on their feet.
“Drums are one of the simplest musical instruments that someone can learn in a very short time,” Junyong relates. “It lowers the barrier for people who are interested in learning music, but are worried about it at the same time.”
Junyong and his team believe they shouldn’t be.
“Being a percussive art form in Japan, Taiko drumming and its every move and action require concentration and discipline. In our Taiko programme, we’ve seen significant improvements in these two areas, especially with children and the youth,” he observes.
“Taiko drumming somehow brings people to the same level, whether or not they have a musical background, and whether or not they can understand Japanese. It ‘forces’ everyone to work together. From ordinary workers to the CEO of a company, from preschoolers to the elderly, we’ve seen how Taiko drumming has effectively engaged people of all ages and abilities.”
It’ll make your soul sing (and dance)
Junyong and his team reveal the other amazing things that Taiko drumming can hopefully do for us, as well as their favourite elements, skills and values learnt from practising and teaching it.
Along the way, you’ll discover how it can help you grow too.
#1 Your journey progresses in stages
Junyong says there are three.
“The first stage is as a learner, where you learn the fundamentals of Taiko drumming. There’s lots of hard work, teamwork and discipline involved in the process. We focus on team progression rather than individual progression. You may be a fast learner, but we perform as a group, and rarely is a Taiko performance solo.
“The second stage is as a performer, where you apply what you’ve learnt into a performance. Performing onstage can be one’s biggest challenge and fear. It’s also a process where you gain self-confidence, and the group further improves its teamwork.
“The last stage is as a teacher, where you teach what you’ve learnt. It’s the best way to relearn what you thought you knew. It’s also a test of leadership, managing people, solving a conflict, and planning and preparing the team ahead of projects and challenges.”
#2 You’ll become aware of other people’s strengths, and be able to work with them
“As trainers and teachers, we think it’s essential to have a sense of empathy. In our experience, we discovered that if we don’t always put ourselves in our students’ shoes, then how will they learn? How will we make them learn?
“We also understand that every student learns at a different pace, and in our formal education system sometimes it’s hard to balance that. We always feel like we’re a metronome; when the students are struggling we slow down for them, and when we discover their potential we increase the tempo and push them a little.”
Ready to (drum) roll
Visit Mangrove Learning for more information, and to see for yourself if Taiko drumming could be your next great obsession.
“If you’re passionate about Taiko drumming, then don’t give up. People with a musical background may excel faster, but it’s the people with determination who’ll last till the end,” he stresses.
“We share our favourite quote from The Pursuit of Happyness here: ‘Don’t ever let someone tell you you can’t do something. Not even me. You got a dream, you got to protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you you can’t do it. You want something, go get it. Period.’”
Happy Taiko drumming. 😀