Maya Wong is Taking Taiko to Another Level

Freshman Maya Wong plays the taiko drum at the Race for the Cure run at Newport Beach. Her taiko group volunteers there and plays at the race every year.

Photograph Courtesy of Maya Wong

Freshman Maya Wong plays the taiko drum at the Race for the Cure run at Newport Beach. Her taiko group volunteers there and plays at the race every year.

The loud, rhythmic beats of the taiko drum creates a thundering impression, bringing out the beauty of Japanese music. Along with the music is the swift movements of the taiko players. The combination of taiko and corresponding elaborate moves forms a sensational performance that represents the Japanese culture. Freshman Maya Wong partakes in taiko to show pride in her heritage and to indulge in the rich culture of Japanese music.

 

 

 

Wong became interested in taiko when she discovered a particular band called Wagakki Band online. The band fuses Western instruments such as the guitar and keyboard with Japanese instruments such as the taiko drum. “I saw the taiko player in the back and he looked so cool playing it, I knew I wanted to do that,” Wong remarks. Her inspiration from the Wagakki Band influenced her to start participating in taiko. Unlike most percussion instruments that focus primarily on the sound and rhythm, taiko is performative and heavily incorporates dance-like movements and constant motion into the intricate routines.

 

 

 

Playing primarily in Anaheim at the Orange County Buddhist Church, Wong has found passion and dedication for taiko within the three years she has participated. At first, it was a struggle for Wong because her group’s taiko style was quite difficult. The movements for the performance was also “sometimes a little demanding to [the] body and that was a bit of a struggle,” Wong comments. Being both emotionally and physically taxing, it took immense dedication and talent to became more familiarized with the movements and build stamina. Although it was tough in the beginning, Wong overcame her obstacle and continues to strive for the best.

 

 

 

Additionally, Wong enjoys bonding with the people at her taiko class and is able to connect with other Japanese students. One of her friends, Kellie Yada, remarks, “Maya is really hard working. Even on the sidelines while we are not playing, she will air bachi [practice in the air]. She is also a great person to talk to.” Another friend Jeffery Onuma comments, “Maya has shown rapid growth in taiko not only because of her drumline experience, but she has a genuine interest in the art and it shows through her playing.”

 

 

 

Wong’s extracurricular activities are all heavily based on music. As well as playing the taiko, she plays the piano, mallet percussion instruments such as xylophone and marimba, bass drum, and another Japanese instrument called the shamisen, a three-stringed instrument that is classified as one of the hardest instruments in the world. “Shamisen is an interesting instrument; it may be a string instrument, but because of the way you play it, it also has percussion-like attributes,” states Wong. She also partakes in Beckman’s marching band and symphonic band, playing the percussion for both. Even though her extra-curriculars revolve around music, Wong considers music as more of a hobby than a potential career.

 

 

 

In April, Wong will be performing at the Orange County Buddhist Church for a Buddhist festival called the Hanamatsuri. At the Hanamatsuri, Wong and her classmates will be showcasing their taiko performance and celebrate the Buddhist festival. In the future, Wong plans to continue playing the taiko in college if there are opportunities. She also sees herself coming back to the Orange County Buddhist Church after graduating college to either teach taiko or to help out during the classes.