Category Archives: Taiko

What Makes You GENKI?


Genki is the Japanese word that means,


At this year’s Boston Pride Festival, we asked folks what makes them “genki” (happy, healthy, and full of life). We got responses from, family and friends, hugging, to self-acceptance and pride. Check it out! What makes YOU genki??


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Check out our FACEBOOK ALBUM for more photos.

–Genki Sister Karen


Honoring our Past, Present, and Future


In honor of May being Asian Heritage Month, I thought I would share one way in which The Genki Spark honors our heritages.  For those of you that missed our Making Women’s History Event back in March, or you were so inspired and excited about it and can’t wait until next year’s event…here’s an “encore” of one of our new pieces debuted that weekend, “Honoring Past, Present, and Future.”

Below you will find the speaking parts of the piece and a video of our performance.  We at The Genki Spark honor and celebrate those that came before us as we continue their work for a happier, healthier, genki-er world.  We are excited for our future and the future we are creating for those yet to come.




Today we reflect on the experiences of our ancestors. As immigrants and minorities, the generations before us faced many challenges. Their stories of sacrifice and struggle include:

  1. Having to change their names because they were “too hard to pronounce.”
  2. Being forced to “speak good English,” abandoning the languages their families had spoken for generations.
  3. Being denied jobs or access to education.
  4. Working endlessly under exploitative conditions, building railroads, cleaning houses, picking crops.
  5. Forfeiting their professions or dreams in order to provide a better life for their families.
  6. Facing the burden of proving loyalty to a country that was at war with the homeland of their ancestors.
  7. Being expected to keep quiet and endure indignities because they were women.
  8. Being harassed or beaten for their skin color, race, religion, who they fell in love with.

Despite all this, the generations before us not only endured, they excelled. Their pride, strength, and courage enabled them to continue despite a society that tried to keep them down. They demonstrated resistance through organizing or simply trying their best to persevere day after day. Let’s honor the legacies of the men and especially the women who continue to inspire us.


Today we envision the future.  The future we want to leave for our children, grandchildren and generations to come.  A future that honors those who have come before us.

What is this future we see?

A future that is just, equitable; where there is equal pay for equal work regardless of gender, race or religion.

A future that provides places where each of us can flourish, celebrating our unique strengths and talents; including opportunity for any girl who dreams of being president to do so!

A future where the media portrays women & girls for their strengths, skill and ability, not their hairstyles, bodies or sexuality.

A future where we fight through numbness and dumbing down to act with courage and conviction.

A future where women and girls leave competition and judgment aside to fully support each other.

A future where in the presence of strong women and girls men and boys find their strength and compassion

A future where we ALL listen to the needs and experiences of one another to empower healing, liberation, and positive change.

A future where each of us contributes to a healthy, sustainable planet,

A future where we live lives of hope, love and peace.

How can we create this future and carry on the legacy that has been given to us?  What can we do to create this future?


Today, we are in the present. The history of our past and the progression of our future, meets today, right now. Because we are interconnected.

This is our time. What are we going to do now?

The efforts of our past have contributed to progress. Today we still take on challenges including inequity, discrimination, and other forms of injustice. Every moment is an opportunity for positive change. Everything we do, what we say, every interaction, is important because what we put into the world, is a ripple effect that leads to what will come.

Because we are interconnected.

What are the choices you’re making now? When you do something or say something, are you thinking about the impact? How it might make the other person feel? How it might impact our communities? How it impacts the world? What we put out, even the little moments, matter.

What we do now is going to not only impact us, but will be what we pass on to our children, and our children’s children, which will continue to be passed on to future generations.

We invite you to join us, in spreading respect and peace in the world, with fierceness, so that our positive vibrations will spread and heal our communities and world.

We are interconnected.

Join us in making positive change, NOW.

Taiko Baka 2014


2014-01-21 12.55.19Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, flap, flap, flap
Wiggle, wiggle wiggle, flap flap flap
This is the constant refrain I heard as Tiffany sensei began to deftly take apart my drumming technique so that I can play more efficiently and with less strain. During the weekend long workshop, we wiggled and we flapped with visions of spaghetti arms floating in and out of my consciousness. The technique worked because how else could I have lasted 4 days of daily drumming, sometimes up to 45 minutes at a stretch without acquiring a single blister on my hands. Lots of sore muscles. No blisters.
Four days of taiko intensive workshop with Tiffany Tamaribuchi, an internationally known taiko master is first and foremost a lot of FUN! Yes, we did learn to play the Odaiko but a funny thing happened before we played our solos. I learned to overcome my self-doubts, my fears. (Play a solo? Oh no. Not me.) I learned to relax and enjoy the moment. I felt connected and balanced. So what if I made a mistake. So what if I couldn’t play a pattern after the first or fifth repetition. So what if after learning a drill one day, I couldn’t remember how to play it the next. All I know is no one is keeping score (maybe me, still). No one will remember how badly or how well I played my solo except me. And in my mind at that moment, I was flawless. The corrections, the do overs….those can wait until the following day.
I still have plenty of challenges to work on and who doesn’t? But after Taiko Baka, I am less intimidated. It isn’t as daunting a task anymore. True, I still get nervous. But it’s all relative. At the very least, I don’t feel like Sissyphus pushing a big boulder up a steep hill all the time.
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, Flap, flap flap.

— Mary Ann

Taiko Baka: Oh, Taiko


I went to Taiko Baka (an intensive on how to play the Odaiko) with a healthy share of trepidation about my: abilities as a Taiko player, strength, physical limitations, finesse, capacities, etc. There were people there who’ve been playing Taiko for decades- to newbies- 2 years, to fledglings – 9 months. Our rhythmic and musical skills varied as did our physical capacities and our reasons for being there. Yet, as I settled into the experience I began to see how each of us was bringing our own heart, soul and body to the drum. We were approaching the drum with all of what brought us to that very moment in time…all of it, nothing left behind!
Tiffany Tamaribuchi, our Sensei-extraordinaire emphasized that the most important piece in all she was teaching us was who we are as Odaiko players. Who we are as we approach the drum, settle into our stance, raise our bachi and begin the conversation that is wanting and waiting to happen in that moment. How who we are in front of the drum is how we live in the rest of our lives. It is not something that just happens while playing; it is what informs our playing and the very living of our lives.

While I began to understand this through the course of the weekend, the lessons I learned have been unfolding profoundly for me as I process and integrate all that I experienced. Here’s the jist at this moment:
1.) Play to the level of my ability and don’t try to be someone else. My self-expression on the Odaiko is what it is in that moment. I cannot play as if I have 4, 8, 20 years of experience, because I DON’T! I’m a relative newbie to this art form and am in a learning process that will continue as I continue to play. So, let myself be where I am!

One of the many drills...

One of the many drills…

2.) Comparative judgment will shut me down completely. Judging my abilities against others’ abilities will only leave me on the short end of the stick and feeling badly about myself. Or, I can judge myself as better to puff up my ego at the expense of another which is not in integrity with who I really am. Either way, my capacities and abilities are my own. Others’ are theirs. When I admire them for who they are and let myself be inspired by what they have accomplished as players rather than diminish or puff up myself, I have more room to be me in front of the drum.
3.) Breakdown leads to breakthrough. We were challenged daily to keep playing through physical exhaustion, way beyond the limit of what we thought we were capable of. With muscles aching all over, I explored different ways of keeping going. Getting pissed off was what came up first. That created tension and holding and made it harder. Feeling sorry for myself (exacerbated by comparative judging) had me want to quit and go home. Finally, on Sunday I found myself relaxing my body (Tiffany said this was a possibility) to find the easiest way to play. Indeed, an ease came; the wrist that had started to throb stopped hurting as much and I found a quiet inner place that provided the stamina to keep at it. Relaxing, breaking through the hard-edged effort, not tensing powered me in that moment.

a very special ji

A very special ji (base beat)

4.) A flash of Joy! As I approached the Odaiko to play my solo on the last day, I experienced a flash of joy that arose from the depths of my soul. Joy has been an experience I’ve not had full or easy access to as a taiko player because I have been very hard on myself (See # 2, above!). I realized as I was settling in before the drum that the Odaiko was here as a non-judgmental witness to my self-expression in that moment. I could play to the best of my ability and it would be, simply, a loving presence, sending out its glorious reverberations into the world. What if this was true every time I approached a drum? (It is!)
5.) Community is supportive. Big lesson here. I’ve been challenged by my itty bitty shitty committee’s agenda of fears -people’s opinions, not measuring up, not being safe; not expecting to be supported. This has meant feeling insular and isolated when with other people. In the last 7 years or so have I found myself better able to let others support me, even then with some difficulty. The community of players that came together for this Taiko Baka encouraged each other genuinely, contributing to growing my trust in community.

At one with the drum

At one with the drum

6.) My heart is as big as the Odaiko we played. In a meditation following my return home, I experienced the drum and my heart as ONE. The drum expresses and mirrors back to me how open my heart is, how grounded my body is, how in tune I am with who I am as the most authentic expression of myself in that moment. What a gift to be in the presence of such an instrument.
The lessons of Taiko Baka will continue to inform my presence and skill as a Taiko player and who I am as a human being. I have been touched deeply by Taiko Baka 2014 and thank the tree in Cameroon that became the body of the drum, the two cows who provided the heads upon which we played and the community of people who came together to make this such a powerful experience. Banzai!

Genki Sista, Monique Morimoto