Established in 2004, Yukai Daiko, which translates to “cheerful drumming,” is one of two collegiate taiko groups at UCLA, the other being Kyodo Taiko. The art of Japanese drumming, or taiko, has been a part of Japanese culture for centuries.
Yukai Daiko is dedicated to the practice of group drumming, called kumi-daiko, a relatively new form of taiko that has existed for just over 60 years and is gaining an increasing presence around the world. Yukai Daiko’s mission is to bring the community spirit of taiko to anyone who wants to learn it here at UCLA.
Yukai Daiko’s founder, Yuta Kato, was only a student when he organized beginning taiko classes that were open to anyone at UCLA. In 2002, Yuta created an additional taiko practice group called Isshin Daiko where students could meet outside of the beginning classes and continue to improve their taiko playing. Isshin Daiko would later evolve into Yukai and was created with the philosophy that everyone should have the opportunity to play taiko regardless of skill. This philosophy has continued to guide Yukai to the present day.
Over the next two years the fledgling Isshin Daiko gradually began having weekly practices, holding its own end-of-the-year performances and participating in the IntercollegiateTaiko Invitational with other collegiate taiko groups. By 2004 Yuta decided it was time to turn what was once an outside practice group into a full-fledged collegiate group.
In the summer of 2004 at Mount Shasta, Yuta, along with professional taiko player Michelle Fujii, gathered the ten UCLA students who would become the first members of Yukai Daiko. Together the Shasta Ten built their own five drums with Yuta’s father’s help and laid the groundwork to turn what was once Isshin Daiko into an official collegiate taiko group. Yukai Daiko was born.
Yukai has since grown into a student-led performance group consisting of around 20 students and is an active member in the collegiate taiko community. Yukai Daiko now holds free taiko workshops each fall quarter for UCLA students during its trial period, performs at various UCLA and community events, partakes yearly in the Intercollegiate Taiko Invitational, and puts on a concert each spring.
Yukai is continually changing as it acquires new generations of members each fall and adapts and writes songs old and new. Despite its many changes, however, Yukai remains true to its mission of giving everyone a chance to experience the inexplicable and honest joy that inevitably comes from playing taiko.