Okami Taiko Drumming group available on campus

Alison Malek, Staff Writer

Okami Taiko is a student led Traditional Japanese drumming group on the Madison College Truax campus. Okami means wolf and Taiko means drumming. Desia Xiong, President and Founder of the Okami Taiko club, found the wolf to be very fitting since it is the school’s mascot.

The main style of Drumming and Dance is, but isn’t limited to Okianwan Style Drumming. The three principles in Okami Taiko’s mission are body positivity, creative chorography and community. Xiong wants people to feel comfortable in their body when they are working out. They welcome everyone to come and dance with them, you do not have to be athletic or musical.

“I want people to not feel ashamed of it and know what they are doing is more than doing nothing, like they are working out a little,” Xiong says.

Xiong went to West High School and joined a Japanese Drumming club called the Okinawan Taiko Drummers of Wisconsin. She was very active and participated her full four years of high school. Two years following her 2014 graduation, Xiong taught for that club after school. She managed it and went to performances with the students. After two years, she realized she wanted her own community at Madison College. She wanted a different set of priorities and atmosphere than at West High School.

“I really wanted to run a club how I want to run it,” Xiong says.

Xiong wanted a different type of leadership in the club and is very passionate about teaching the Okianwan style of drumming to anyone who wants to learn.

“I really, really love dancing, I really love doing Okianwan style dancing and it never gets old for me. It provides me with a passion that I truly believe can be shared with other people,” Xiong says.

Another reason why Xiong chose to start a club at Madison College is because her friend had a club at UW Madison and half of the participants were students from Madison College.

Officially, the club launched this semester at Madison College and she spent all last semester recruiting for the club. They are still organizing meeting times on our campus, but if you are interested in learning beforehand, you are more than welcome to join the club down at UW Madison.

A typical meeting takes place in a spacious, soundproof room with a sound system and everything pushed to the walls. Shoes should be taken off or one would wear athletic shoes, as the dance is more comfortable without shoes. Then, they would run through songs. Xiong likes to explain what each drum is called and what you use it for and offer them a choice of which drum they prefer to learn.

For new members, she has them learn five very specific songs that are essential because all three Taiko drumming clubs in Madison do these songs. They all have very good form movements in it and teach rhythm skills and the basic things. Things that they need to really learn and get comfortable with before they can move onto other songs. Okami Taiko has 36 songs that they can perform and also, 40-50 songs that they can practice just for the sake of practicing.
Okianwan style drumming incorporates martial arts into it because the dance was done during the festival season in Japan. They also incorporated martial arts into the dance with roots based in the past from conflict between China and Japan. They were always colonized so they had difficulty protecting themselves.

“It formed protection and keeping martial arts alive back in the day and it became something they did at their festivals and now it is definitely a performance art,” Xiong says.

Okami Taiko officially have two performances this semester. They will be performing at the March 7, Global Showcase, and for the Student Showcase on March 24.

Xiong would really like to get people interested in the Okianwan culture and traditional Japanese dancing, and having a community that supports you for who you are.