Census Blog: Six Degrees of Tanaka Sensei

Submitted by: Linda Uyechi

When you share your Taiko Profile on the TCA Taiko Census you support the Taiko Mapping Project (TMP). TMP is the TCA-sponsored project to capture the spread of taiko — player by player — by asking two simple questions:

(1) What group(s) have you played with?
(2) When did you play with them?

Taiko is a special art form, not only because it’s unmistakably loud and vibrant, but also because it’s created by groups of people working together who depend largely on oral tradition to share the art form. Through kuchishoka, we have created a special arts-based social network!

So the responses to those two basic questions provide enough information to draw a picture of taiko relations. Simply put, in our taiko map a circle represents a person and an edge represents their taiko relationship — the tie formed between two people when they play in the same group at the same time.

For example, Russell Baba and Jeanne Mercer learned from and played taiko with Tanaka-sensei at San Francisco Taiko Dojo. They, in turn, formed Shasta Taiko, and taught and played with Shoji Kameda, who formed On Ensemble, where Michelle Fujii, now with Unit Souzou, was one of the original members. So Toru Watanabe, the co-founder of Unit Souzou, can trace a taiko connection to Tanaka-sensei. Graphically put, those relations look like this:

Tanaka-Sensei (3)

With more data the web of relations gets more complex and compelling. Indeed, Toru may find himself with fewer degrees of separation to Tanaka-sensei.

With the relatively recent emergence of ensemble taiko and the relationships we have formed, it is theoretically possible to create a taiko map of all taiko players. A comprehensive taiko map will allow each player to trace their taiko lineage but — even more significantly — the taiko map can document the spread of taiko. We believe that no other art form can lay claim to the ability to so clearly document the spread of their art. The taiko map, then, can underscore for researchers and funders alike what we already know: taiko is special.

Not only has our shared passion for taiko ensured its rapid growth, we’ve also created a special network of practitioners where Tanaka-sensei can boast an influence akin to Kevin Bacon. With your support Six Degrees of Tanaka-sensei can do for the taiko community what Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon did for the movie industry.

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Our goal, then, is to document our art form one player at a time. Your responses to the 2013 Taiko Census provided sufficient data for a proof of concept of taiko mapping but, unfortunately, allowed us to share only aggregated data. In this year’s Taiko Census we ask that participants allow us to share the information in their taiko profile.

That shared information will serve as the heart of the taiko map. Membership lists and rosters from taiko groups will augment the map. And as the taiko community continues to grow, we hope to leverage our tech resources so that new players can be mapped in real-time.

Such are our ambitions for the future. For the present, we ask each taiko player to reach out so that all members of their local taiko network Get Counted! We have a fascinating story to tell, and want everyone to be included.

Posted in Census, General News, Programs
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