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Stanford Taiko brings the beat to Thailand

Concluding a year marked, among other aspects, by the purchase of new drums, Stanford Taiko recently completed a two-week tour of Thailand in which the group – on its fourth tour of the country since first visiting in 2000 – performed eight concerts in six cities.

Professor of Music Stephen Sano, Stanford Taiko’s faculty advisor, noted that the tour, in which 14 of Stanford Taiko’s 17 members participated, differed slightly from previous years through the addition of TNN – a Thai cable news channel – as a sponsoring partner.

“They sent a film crew with us for the whole tour in order to produce a documentary of our tour,” Sano said.

Sano described this year’s concert tour as another “amazing experience” featuring performances, sightseeing and local cuisine sampling throughout the day.

According to Stanford Taiko member Mark Nishimura ’16, the group is regularly invited back to Thailand by benefactor Nirund Jivasantikarn, a close family friend of a former group member and the father of a Stanford alumnus. Jivasantikarn sponsors the trips — providing the group with performance venues, accommodations, ground transportations and personal escorts for sightseeing — in the hope of providing his home country with a new type of artistic and cultural experience, according to former Stanford Taiko member Ken Yuzuriha ’12.

Yuzuriha, who remained a member of the group for a quarter after graduating in 2012, spoke highly of the 2009 Thailand trip.

“The year I went, there [was] a heavy emphasis on promoting reading to school children, prompting many performances at schools and for students while we were there,” Yuzuriha said. “It was not only a little bit of a culture shock, but it was also a great growing experience.”

Besides traveling to Thailand in the summer, Stanford Taiko hosts open workshops, debuts and concerts during the school year. This year’s spring performance was especially popular due to the unveiling of recently acquired new drums, which were purchased from taiko manufacturer Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten with music department endowment funds.

During the Thailand tour, however, the group – which traveled with several hundred pounds of equipment – was unable to showcase the new drums, instead using drums handmade by past and current Stanford Taiko members.

“Stanford Taiko definitely has access to the new drums, but only when we’re performing in Bing Concert Hall,” Yuzuriha said. “The set of drums belongs more to the Concert Hall than Stanford Taiko.”

Since Sano will be on sabbatical next summer, the group’s next trip to Thailand will take place following the 2014-­15 academic year.

The TNN documentary on the group’s tour of Thailand will be broadcast on Dec. 5, 2013, the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.

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