2023 Holiday Mingle Recap!
As many of our amazing readers already know, the first ever Lunar New Year celebration in Squirrel hill is just
As many of our amazing readers already know, the first ever Lunar New Year celebration in Squirrel hill is just DAYS away! We here at the Squirrel Hill Urban Coaliton want to give you a taste of the events you’ll be able to look forward to beginning on February 6th with our Lunar New Year Kick-Off at the Jewish Community Center.
Today’s featured performers are Pittsburgh Taiko!
Pittsburgh Taiko is a joint effort between the Japan America Society of Pennsylvania (JASP) and the Asian Studies Center (ASC) at the University of Pittsburgh. When several Pitt students approached these organizations with their interest in Japanese group taiko drumming or kumidaiko, a wonderful partnership was born. “We all worked together to get a grant to buy these drums and now in partnership with the ASC, we practice at Winchester Thurston School,” said Amy Boots, the executive director of JASP, “So it’s a big community effort.”
A Quick History of Taiko
Within Japan, taiko refers to any number of Japanese percussion instruments, the word taiko meaning ‘fat drum’. Outside of Japan, taiko refers specifically to various Japanese drums called wadaiko and the art of ensemble drumming. Taiko drumming has been a part of Japanese culture for hundreds of years, finally reaching American shores in the 1960’s. Since its introduction, taiko groups have popped up all over the country, and taiko performances have been included in such high profile events as Cirque du Solei shows.
While many of these groups are professional, Pittsburgh Taiko is made up of a mix of passionate students, volunteers, and community members. Anyone can actually learn taiko drumming through this organization, with beginner classes several times a year. “They’re a group of really passionate people who are doing it because they love it,” said Boots.
The group performs all over the city for various events and also, as part of the Japan-America Society, often take part in educational initiatives that bring demonstrations, lectures, and performances to local schools. The Japan in Schools program, started in 1997, bring Japanese education to Western Pennsylvania schools- including programming about Japanese history, language, culture, origami and more. Schools can request a visit on the JASP website.
Unlike much of the rest of Asia, Japan does not celebrate the Lunar New Year. They celebrate a January 1st New Year alongside most American and European countries. You might ask why they would participate in the Lunar New Year festivities? “It’s important to have a pan Asian effort. Japan is important to the Pittsburgh region,” Boots explained. “I think it’s important for us to be there and represent Japanese Culture.” JASP will also be tabling a booth that explains why Japan doesn’t celebrate the Lunar New Year. You’ll have to drop by to learn why!
Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania
The Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania, a non-profit organization located in downtown Pittsburgh, was founded in 1986. It’s mission is “to promote local understanding of and mutually beneficial participation in the changing U.S.- Japan relationship by:
*Providing relevant and timely Japan-related information to the public
*Establishing dialogue between the state’s Japanese and American business/professional communities
*Introducing a forum for the presentation of cultural ideas and programming
*Providing educational outreach opportunities for teachers and students
*Promoting good will concerning the U.S.-Japan relationship”
Pictures borrowed from the Pittsburgh Taiko Website