Mark H Rooney is our first visit with one of our 2012 World Stage performers
This interview with Mark H Rooney is our first visit with one of our 2012 World Stage performers. Mark has been a student of taiko, a traditional Japanese style of drumming, for more than 15 years. He has toured internationally with renowned taiko ensembles and was the artistic director of Odaiko New England before relocating to the DC area. The Takoma Park Folk Festival welcomes Mark for the first time, and we are eager to enjoy his virtuoso display of high-energy drumming.
Question: Please tell us about taiko.
“Taiko” is a Japanese word that means “drum,” but it has been adopted as a term to refer to the art-form of Japanese drumming. This is a fairly contemporary form of a very traditional style of drumming in Japan. It highlights the physicality of drumming with your whole body, the stamina of doing this for extended periods, the beauty of the dynamic movements involved, and the energy inherent in drumming as a community. In its modern context, taiko creates connection and awareness through arduous training, mental focus, and the visceral experience of “kumidaiko,” or drumming in an ensemble.
Question: You blend traditional taiko with other influences. Can you tell us about how your interest evolved?
As the product of a Japanese-American union (my parents), I have always been interested in reconciling my mixed heritage. In doing so, I try to be open to what interests me as far as music, rhythm, performance—and tradition. I owe much to my exposure to Japanese traditions, but I also feel that it is important to create new ones. Taiko is a young performance art based on some old traditions. The pursuit of balance is as much a part of the study of taiko as anything.
Question: Drumming appeals to every age group. Why?
Rhythm is one of the first things we are aware of as human beings: it starts from our mother’s heartbeat. It touches us on a very deep level of consciousness, yet the experience is so immediate and primal. And it is accessible to anyone regardless of age.
Question: You also teach drumming. Do you have classes for all ages and ability levels?
I have taught taiko to people of all ages and backgrounds and find it one of the most fulfilling aspects of my life. Right now, being that I moved here recently, I am rebuilding my student base and looking for places to do so. Given the opportunity, I would love to teach a wider range of ages (right now, I have adult classes with a minimum age of 13 years old). Please look for youth workshops to come soon!
Question: Where can people go online to find out more about you?
I am currently working on updating my website (by “I,” I mean other, smarter people…!) which should soon be accessible at: www.markhrooney.com. I also have a FB page called Mark H Taiko (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mark-H-Taiko/128089523961605?ref=hl). That one is a little more up to date and includes pictures of the taiko that I make. I am also part of a taiko trio called Kizuna that does appear locally from time to time; information will be distributed shortly for a performance in November.