Updated: Apr 23, 2019
Nearly 20 years ago, a group of 6 grandmas became friends through an atypical bond: Taiko drumming. Taiko, an ancient form of Japanese percussion, is usually performed by younger folks with a set of drums—LOUD drums—about the size of wine barrels. But Heiwa Taiko started because Molly, one of the grandmas, formed a group at the Southern Alameda County Buddhist Church in Union City.
The grandmas spun off from the main group, and the current performers include Amy, Annie, Janice, Vera, Virginia, and Yofe.
Each member joined at different times, but all agreed that taiko drumming provides a very powerful feeling—“a feeling that everybody should do it,” says Janice. They took lessons on weekends and found a fun, new activity. If not for the fun, Vera says, she would have dropped out. For the deeply committed drummers, Taiko takes 40% of their time to perform and work at the church. It’s a team effort, and they push each other to be better—to learn and remember the music and choreography. “It takes practice. There’s technique. It’s about muscle memory, so the more you practice, you can remember to do a certain technique,” says Janice. But becoming good friends and having a great time are part of the reward. The Heiwa grandmas have since played at venues such as the Ashland Shakespeare Festival in Oregon, on a cruise ship—and even for prisoners in in San Quentin Prison.
“Just because you were doing one thing before doesn’t mean you can’t be something else when you get old,” says Vera.
Music—both listening and performing—has been shown to keep people mentally sharp. Your community likely has a recreation department when you can learn to play music, whether you’re a beginning or experienced performer. And music venues abound—some of them in local areas you might not be aware of.
Check in with Travonde for event dates and locations where YOU can enjoy the power of music!