News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Drum workshop will empower locals

“Sisters is a community that appreciates traditional folk arts,” said Maesie Speer, programs director of Caldera Arts Center near Suttle Lake.

Locals will have a chance to immerse in the Japanese art of taiko drumming with the group Unit Souzou on January 19 at The Lodge in Sisters.

The workshop, Taiko Empowerment: Telling Your Story Through The Drum With Unit Souzou, is presented by Caldera in partnership with Age Friendly Sisters, The Lodge in Sisters, and Citizens for Community (C4C). It is free and open to the public. Registration is required and space is limited.

Speer described a sense of belonging “when we hear old songs and see a beautifully crafted weaving or quilt in a traditional style.” Being open to new voices is important, too. “Unit Souzou works from the tradition of taiko and are dedicated to advancing and evolving it to tell stories of life now, which makes them a perfect fit for Sisters,” she said. “Not to mention that people here love rhythm, storytelling, and learning about their neighbors, which is what this workshop is all about.”

The taiko form fuses sound, movement, and spirit, and has been a “loud and proud voice to express stories of identity and cultural heritage,” according to Caldera. The workshop combines background information, taiko demonstrations, and hands-on participation. Participants will share stories through body and rhythm exercises “to discover your unique identity story through the empowering beats of taiko.”

The workshop is designed with beginners in mind; no previous taiko experience is necessary. Participants must be at least 14 years of age, and should wear comfortable clothing and bring a water bottle.

“Expect to be physical and make noise,” the organization explained, “and to share stories and listen.”

Unit Souzou plans to debut a performance project, “Constant State of Otherness,” at a new Caldera event in June of this year. Stories generated in this workshop will inform and inspire the development of that performance. The project “seeks to build empathy and empower identity through community engagement and innovative artistic exploration, rooted in the art forms of Japanese folk dance, taiko and theatre.”

Founded in 2014 by innovative directors Michelle Fujii and Toru Watanabe, the group’s name alludes to “a force by which new ideas are born and take shape in the world,” according to their bio. Unit Souzou’s mission is to build creative, imaginative works while honoring the history and roots of the taiko art form. More information is available at Unit Souzou.

The workshop takes place January 19 at The Lodge in Sisters, 411 E. Carpenter Ln., just opposite the post office. At noon, participants will gather for refreshments. The workshop itself takes place from 1 to 3 p.m. To register, email Maesie Speer Caldera Arts or call 503-937-3075.

Local schools and kids throughout Central Oregon, including Sisters, are served by Caldera programs. The arts center also provides artist residencies, bringing a diverse array of artistic and literary voices to Sisters Country. They share their work at AiR (Artist in Residence) open studio events, free to the public. Details are available at Caldera Arts.

Speer noted that all the presenting organizations involved with the taiko workshop are working to reduce isolation and build bridges.

“Drumming and storytelling will get us into our bodies and hearts, where real connection happens,” she said.


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