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Photo courtesy of Tye's Photography. 

Photo courtesy of Tye's Photography. 

UNM-Valencia celebrates Japanese drumming

The University of New Mexico Valencia Campus hosted a taiko Japanese drumming lecture and demonstration Monday, as part of the “Valencia Speaks” series.

Julia So, Ph.D. organized this event, inviting Anita Lee Gallegos to the Student Community Center at the Valencia campus to demonstrate traditional Japanese drumming, called taiko.

Gallegos, a 2018 New Mexico Women of STEM honoree, is a physicist as well as a martial artist and founder of the Bushido Kenkyukai in Albuquerque.

She and three of her taiko students demonstrated drumming through various pieces, and between performances Gallegos gave the audience information about taiko, its history in Japan and its later development in the United States.

Dressed in her colorful happi, a traditional taiko coat Gallegos said she ordered from Japan, Gallegos cracked jokes as she introduced a festival piece from Kyoto.

“I was told a lot of sakedrinking was going on at this time,” she said.

Gallegos studied taiko drumming for 15 years, but began learning martial arts earlier in her life. She said taiko professionals also complete rigorous physical training, and many considertaiko to be a form of martial arts.

Gallegos invited audience members to try playing the drums near the end of the demonstration. One of her students helped correct the posture and forms of the audience participants who played on stage, along to the beat that Gallegos set on her own drum.

Before Gallegos and her students performed their final piece, a composition called “Matsuri,” or “festival” in English, Gallegos said she feels a sense of community she feels through taiko and martial arts.

Dōjōis family to me,” Gallegos said.

Dōjōtranslates to the practice halls used in martial arts.

“We have such a wide variety of things that come to campus, be it speakers about society, or we’ve had people from various agencies around Albuquerque, or whether it’s art and culture. I think it’s very beneficial to get those ideas out to the student body,” said Dean of Instruction at Valencia, Laura Musselwhite.

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Audience members included UNM students Aaron Wroten, Diego Avitia and Elisa Ashford.

“Seeing other cultures coming into play, I guess you can say, really opens your eyes to see that there is a lot more that we may not exposed to without events like this,” Wroten said.

Avitia agreed with Wroten, and said he learned something new from the information Gallegos provided during the lecture.

“I thought I knew about different forms of martial arts. But they’re using this kind of drum playing as a martial art, following the same disciplines as other forms of arts in Japan,” Avitia said.

Outside the technicalities of taiko, Gallegos’ presence as a woman in STEM and an active community member left an impact on Ashford.

“I thought it was really cool, because it showed that you can be successful and also still maintain cultural activities to bring to your community,” Ashford said.

Wroten, Avitia and Ashford said they would attend an event like this again.

“I think all that we can do to bring more cultural awareness of different places around the world will enrich our students and teach them about things that they may not normally come into contact with,” Musselwhite said.

Annie Edwards is a culture reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @annie_ce18.

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