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Percussionist Taku Hirano

Hi, everyone! Taku Hirano here, checking in from the Crescent City. The wonderful music Mecca of New Orleans is my third adopted U.S. home. I was born in Japan, and now I’m officially “tri-coastal,” with homes in Los Angeles, New York City, and here on the Gulf Coast.

The one thing that I am struck by every time I come down here is the sense of heritage and pride in this city. Every creaky floorboard, stately mansion, family restaurant, historic concert stage, and corner store is infused with the colorful history of the city. The sounds and tastes are like no other place in the world, and it is a joy to see it embraced by natives and visitors alike.

I began to think how we as musicians, first and foremost, have to be proponents of the concept of heritage. Whether sitting behind the drums, playing cajon on an acoustic gig, or overdubbing a tambourine track, we owe it to the heritage of these instruments and in the styles of music we play that give us joy—and in the luckiest of cases, an income. We must also pay homage to the predecessors of our craft, who paved the way with their development of techniques, technological advances, and pushing of musical boundaries.

Being a percussionist, it is my job to learn a myriad of traditional instruments and their techniques. Though my bread-and-butter is pop and rock styles, my training in the musical heritages of West Africa, Cuba, Brazil, India, North Africa, and Japan have undoubtedly made me the player I am today. My touring rig itself comprises instruments from Cuba, Brazil, Japan, Indian, Senegal, and the Middle East (in addition to electronics and Western classical instruments). Am I a master at any of these styles? Not by any means! But I will continue to be the best student I can be, no matter where my career goes.

Also, as a percussionist, my “drumkit” is unconventional, utilizing traditional instruments and techniques in nontraditional ways. If you’re a drummer, do you know the history behind the various components that make up your kit? With the Internet, there is no reason not to Google “hi-hat” and cross-reference it with “clangers” or “low-boys”…there’s no reason not to be familiar with the fact that Chinese tom-toms were precursors to the monstrous kits of today…not to know that the term “trap kit” was in fact a shortening of the word “contraption” because of the traditional use of a tray of various percussion instruments mounted over the bass drum.

True, one can attain Wikipedia trivia at the click of the mouse and access the most obscure footage on YouTube. The real work lies in the shed, onstage, in the studio, on the road, etc…. But hopefully it can also provide you with the reverence and pride that you should feel as a drummer. After all, we are blessed to be part of a brotherhood that plays the second oldest instrument on Earth!

For more on Taku Hirano, go to www.twitter.com/takuhirano or www.facebook.com/pages/Taku-Hirano/137428229609597?ref=ts. And for information on his group Tao of Sound, go to www.domomusicgroup.com/taoofsound/.

Photo by Djeneba Aduayom Photography.

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