Michael Gonhata first started playing with Ryusei Taiko at Koganji Temple at the age of 8. In 2002, he moved to Japan to train under the renowned Tosha Kiyonari, an original member of Sukeroku Daiko and leader of Nihon Taiko Dojo. During that time, he became a performing member and received certification to play and teach all of Tosha Sensei’s songs and techniques, including Uneri, Mikoshi Daiko, and Yodan Uchi.
1. I understand that as a child, one of your first taiko teachers was Kenny Endo. What do you remember of those classes?
There was no youth group at that time. I remember lots of rolls, renshu daiko, and “play hard but relaxed.”
2. What is your background with Nihon Taiko Dojo? How long did you study there.
I met Tosha Kiyonari sensei while I was in high school. I moved to Japan just to play taiko. Originally for 6 months but ended up staying for 2 years.
3. Tosha Kiyonari is one of the four original members of Sukeroku Taiko. Each member had a unique characteristic, what do you think is significant of Tosha’s style?
His style is very fluid but strong. His emphasis is on using strength at the right time but not to waste energy. This allows us to play faster, harder, and louder, if necessary.
He always says to be dynamic and beautiful in both they way you look and sound.
4. What can you share about Tosha sensei and his style of teaching?
Tosha sensei can be very strict yet still tries to maintain his sense of humor. He wants anyone taking lessons from him to be the best taiko player they can be.
If he criticizes you, it means he only wants you to get better. I would be worried if he didn’t say anything.
5. What can you tell us about your style of taiko playing?
I try to practice what Tosha sensei has taught me. It took many many hours of learning, watching, and playing to get his seal of approval. I believe I am able to produce clean sounds by utilizing good technique and body mechanics.
6. What are some of the most exciting/interesting projects that you have done to date?
Getting to work with Nakamura Shido at the Spyder Man 2 movie premier was a fun one.
Most recently, recording with Taimane Gardner and filming a music video for a song titled “Jupiter.”
7. What do you expect STI (Summer Taiko Intensives) students to gain from your class?
I really hope everyone will be able to have a better understanding of body awareness. Also, take with them techniques that they can integrate with their own style.