HISTORY: Taiko Wales was originally established in 2001 by James Barrow, who spent four years studying Taiko with the Hiroshima Taiko Preservation Society.
Whilst living in Machynlleth in 2001 James teamed up with several major Welsh arts venues to run numerous educational and performance projects. In conjunction with Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Taiko was brought to nearly 30, mostly small rural, primary schools across Ceredigion. At Theatr Mwldan in Cardigan, consecutive projects involving all-day Sunday session with adult beginners culminated in the course participants giving two support performances with Joji Hirota and then Mugenkyo. James continues to work extensively in Wales; recent Taiko events include regular appearances at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea in support of the Ospreys rugby team, workshops at the Bleddfa Centre in Powys, corporate team building sessions, and school workshops.
CURRENT: More recently, the Taiko focus in Wales has switched to the Abergavenny area, due mostly to the coordinating efforts and enthusiasm of Ursula Frank. Ursula has studied with James since 2006 and has also studied with Mugenkyo and Kagemusha in the UK, as well as attending shorter courses and sessions with Art Lee in Japan in 2010 and with San Jose Taiko in 2013. Following on from regular workshops and sessions taught by James, she co-founded the first Taiko group in Wales, “Taiko Mynydd Du” – Black Mountain Taiko, named after the local hills.
The group has performed on numerous occasions, at the UK Taiko Festival in Exeter, given an impromptu show at the Wem Taiko Fest , as well as performing at the Hay On Fire Festival, the Big Splash event in Newport and local events including the Crickhowell Walking Festival, Powys Arts Month and the Caerleon Festival. Ursula now runs workshops all over Wales, and regular practice sessions and workshops near Abergavenny, with Taiko colleague Heather Murray.
Heather Murray has also studied Taiko extensively in the UK, with James, Kagemusha, Mugenkyo and Taiko Meantime, as well as making the journey to Japan to study with Art Lee in 2010. She is the co-founder of Taiko Mynydd Du and, as a Natural Voice Practitioner, has a particular interest in the use of voice and song in Taiko. Heather is a State Registered Music Therapist and musician. She was awarded an Arts Council Wales grant in 2017 to study in Japan with the internationally acclaimed teacher Kurumaya Sensei. The project culminated in composing a piece inspired by this experience which was performed at the 70th International Eisteddfod, bringing Taiko to the Eisteddfod for the first time.
A particular focus for much of our work in Wales has emerged, inspired by both Heather and Ursula’s professional experience as, respectively, a music therapist and an art therapist and by James’ previous work in the field of Arts and Health.
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