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Roy and PJ Hirabayashi

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Roy Hirabayashi, co-founder of San Jose Taiko, helped to create a unique art form that combines traditional Japanese drumming with such American institutions as rock and roll and jazz, photograph by Alan Govenar
PJ Hirabayashi, co-founder of San Jose Taiko, helped to create a unique art form that combines traditional Japanese drumming with such American institutions as rock and roll and jazz, photograph by Alan Govenar
Roy and PJ Hirabayashi, photograph by Mel Higashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brennan, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, featuring Roy and PJ Hirabayashi, photograph by John Brown, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brown, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brown, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi
San Jose Taiko, photograph by John Brown, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayashi

Roy Hirabayashi was born January 1, 1951, in Berkeley, California. His wife, PJ Hirabayashi, was born May 18, 1950, in San Rafael, California. They have helped to create a unique Japanese American art form. When they founded San Jose Taiko in 1973, there were as few as three such ensembles in the United States; today, there are believed to be more than 250.

Taiko, pronounced “tie-ko,” takes its name from the Japanese word for a large drum. These instruments, fashioned from hollowed-out tree trunks, have been used in Japan for centuries in religious ceremonies, community festivals and theater, to frighten pests from rice fields and enemies during battle and to define the boundaries of villages. Some are more than 4 feet in diameter and weigh more than a ton. In the United States, oak wine barrels are often employed.

Ensemble drumming, or kumidaiko, began in Japan in the late 1940s and found its way to America in the early 1970s, at the time the Hirabayashis were seeking a way to express their identities as third-generation Japanese Americans. “We wanted to create music that was reflective of our experience, but used traditional Japanese rhythms as foundations,” PJ Hirabayashi has said. “We wanted to incorporate the music we listened to, including rock and roll, and jazz. Other traditions and cultures have influenced our [American] culture, and that makes our music different from what has been created in Japan.”

Other instruments, such as the bamboo flute, are employed, and the drummers move in intense, acrobatic ways, using the energy of their entire bodies. Members of the San Jose group, in the heart of the city’s Japantown, fashion their own drums and take part in composing, choreographing and designing and crafting their own costumes.

San Jose Taiko has entertained audiences in venues ranging from community centers in disadvantaged neighborhoods to New York City’s Carnegie Hall. The troupe performs at community events and operates youth programs and public workshops, adult recreational classes and intensive courses. Its annual national Rhythm Journey Tour includes school outreach and master classes.

The Hirabayashis have created more than twenty original pieces and have gained an international reputation as both composers and performers.

Discography
San Jose Taiko. Kodama—Echoes of the Soul. San Jose Taiko. CD_Kodama.
____________. Mo Ichido: One More Time. San Jose Taiko. SJ-TK0004.
____________. San Jose Taiko: Rhythm Journey. San Jose Taiko. CD Rhythmjourney.

Filmography
San Jose Taiko. San Jose Taiko: Celebrating 3 Decades. DVD. San Jose Taiko. SJT07.
____________. 35th Anniversary Concert. DVD. San Jose Taiko. SJT35.

Watch

San Jose Taiko 35th Anniversary Concerts, September 19-20, 2008, Campbell Heritage Theatre, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayshi

San Jose Taiki, 'Fukai-no Tokoro Kara,' composed by PJ HIrabayashi, Courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayshi


San Jose Taiko, 'Spirit of Adventure,' Composed by Roy Hirabayashi, 30th Anniversary Concert, Center for the Performing Arts, San Jose, California, October 4, 2003, courtesy Roy and PJ Hirabayshi

San Jose Taiko, featuring Roy and PJ Hirabayashi, 2011 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Bethesda, Maryland, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts


Roy and PJ Hirabayashi, interviewed by Nicholas R. Spitzer, 2011 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Bethesda, Maryland, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts

Roy and PJ Hirabayashi, interviewed by Nicholas R. Spitzer, 2011 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Bethesda, Maryland, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts


San Jose Taiko, featuring Roy and PJ Hirabayashi, 2011 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Bethesda, Maryland, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts

San Jose Taiko, featuring Roy and PJ Hirabayashi, 2011 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Bethesda, Maryland, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts


Listen

San Jose Taiko, featuring Roy and PJ Hirabayashi, 'Nana-Shi,' Kodama: Echoes of the Soul, SJT CD 893

San Jose Taiko, featuring Roy and PJ Hirabayashi, 'One World,' Kodama: Echoes of the Soul, SJT CD 893

San Jose Taiko, featuring Roy and PJ Hirabayashi, 'Free Spirit,' Rhythm Journey, SJT CD 405

San Jose Taiko, featuring Roy and PJ Hirabayashi, 'Iruka,' Rhythm Journey, SJT CD 405I

PJ Hirabayashi answers the question 'Could you talk a little about your childhood and what influenced you to become the Taiko master that you are today?' Telephone interview by Alan Govenar, June 28, 2011

PJ Hirabayashi discusses her experience in Japan and then going back to school after returning to the States, telephone interview by Alan Govenar, June 28, 2011

PJ Hirabayashi talks about the beginning of the Taiko program in San Jose, telephone interview by Alan Govenar, June 28, 2011

PJ Hirabayashi answers the question 'What was your experience with Taiko in San Jose?' Telephone interview by Alan Govenar, June 28, 2011

PJ Hirabayashi answers the question 'What do you think is the significance of Taiko in the United States?' Telephone interview by Alan Govenar, June 28, 2011

Roy Harayabashi answers the question 'How did you get interested in Taiko drumming?' Telephone interview by Alan Govenar, July 2, 2011