Burlington Taiko to Perform in Japanese Sister State

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(Host) One way countries learn about each other is through music. A Vermont musical group will soon be traveling to Japan as part of a cultural exchange program.

VPR’s Neal Charnoff reports.

(Sound of Taiko drums.)

(Charnoff) This is the sound of Burlington Taiko in performance. Taiko, Japanese for “big drum”, is a relatively modern revival of ancient Japanese drumming traditions.

For the twelve members of Burlington Taiko, a dream is about to come true. At the end of July, the group will be traveling to Yonago, Japan to perform in “Gaina Matsuri”, which means “Big Festival.” The trip is to support a developing sister state relationship with the prefecture of Tottori.

Ed Leclair is a member of Burlington Taiko, as well as its business manager. He says that being asked to perform in Japan is a great honor for the group. Leclair adds the experience will sharpen Burlington Taiko’s own educational efforts:

(Leclair) “Taiko is really going because we’re very interested in improving the authenticity of our programs and increasing our depth of knowledge about the art form and about Japanese culture in general.”

(Charnoff) Burlington Taiko was founded in 1987, and has since performed at international festivals in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The group is also regularly featured in Burlington’s First Night Festival.

Vermont and Tottori have been investigating a sister state relationship for the last two years. Governor Howard Dean met with Tottori officials during a recent visit to Japan, and discovered that the region’s economy and rural nature are similar to Vermont. Ed Leclair says that besides taking part in Taiko festivals, the group is looking to deepen Vermont’s relationship with Tottori.

(Leclair) “As far as the state of Vermont is concerned, we’re very interested in supporting the whole sister state effort¿. Amazingly, Tottori has interests in the ski industry and not dairy, but in cattle, I think the beef industry, and they have a big high technology industry, so all those similarities really sparked the sister state effort originally.”

(Charnoff) Leclair says that by traveling to Japan, the group can initiate an exchange that goes beyond musical performance.

(Leclair) “Our hope is to go over and set up cultural exchange programs so that Japanese children could come back to Vermont, learn more about our culture, and we can send kids to learn more about Taiko.”

(Charnoff) To help fund the trip to Japan, Burlington Taiko will give a benefit performance Saturday night at Burlington’s Memorial Auditorium.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Neal Charnoff.

(Sound of Taiko performance ¿ drum, drum, drum.)

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