Japanese drumming group in Bethnal Green get back into rhythm after Covid break

The Tamashii Taiko Drummers are now rehearsing at The Garrett Centre in Mansford Street. Picture: Li

The Tamashii Taiko Drummers are now rehearsing at The Garrett Centre in Mansford Street. Picture: Liz Walters - Credit: Archant

Musicians in a Bethnal Green group which practises the Japanese art of taiko drumming have beaten their lockdown blues by resuming classes and rehearsals.

And – in the case of group leader Liz Walters – by beating Covid.

The Tamashii School of Taiko Do, (tamashii is a Japanese word meaning spirit), had been using a railway arch rehearsal space in Dunbridge Street when the pandemic hit.

“We were shut down,” Liz recalled. “Then I got ill, and was completely bed-ridden. But over the years, we’d built up a group of loyal and committed students. So I worked out what we needed to do to continue.”

From her sickbed, Liz marshalled her drummers online. She encouraged them to create makeshift taiko drums from plastic pots and packing tape, which Liz said “made some great sounds!”

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Taiko groups around the world were supporting each other by sharing online practice material, and Liz put together an internet package to keep her drummers drumming – wherever they happened to be.

“We kept 99 per cent of our students, which was amazing!” Liz said.

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Once she had recovered, it was time to get the group back together in person. So the hunt was on for a venue which could accommodate the drummers, their big instruments and their even bigger sound, while observing public health requirements.

“It was important to be in east London – to stay within this community,” said Liz. “It’s all about going back to the community.”

Liz and her taiko partner Derek Sansom scoured Tower Hamlets for a suitable space, and visited numerous church halls and commercial venues.

All too often, they didn’t have the room to accommodate the group’s requirements. However Liz and Derek stuck at the search, determined to continue offering taiko drumming to local residents.

When they found The Garrett Centre in Mansford Street – a community centre which hosts many local groups – the Tamashii Taiko drummers were finally able to get back into their rhythm.

Liz said: “The theme of community is fundamental to taiko. Taiko is about becoming comfortable in one’s self, but also about existing positively within a group. And I think that this is what shone through.”

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