With just days to go until the Rise of the River Gods Hallowe’en Carnival in Londonderry and Strabane, the final touches are being put in place for a spooktacular event to remember.
Thousands will be taking to the streets on Saturday to enjoy the celebrations, with over 40,000 expected to take part in events throughout the festival – so no pressure for the many local groups joining in this year’s carnival parade.
Among them is Ibuki Taiko - one of the many ethnic groups who make up the city’s rich cultural mix and who will be telling their own tribal stories during the celebrations. The group practices the Japanese art of Taiko drumming and will be re-enacting the mischievous antics of the mythical Japanese Kappa during their performance on Hallowe’en night.
Ibuki Taiko was founded by Derry woman, Fiona Umetsu, who was first introduced to Taiko drumming in Tokyo in 1996. She trained and played there until 2000 before bringing this amazing performance art here to the North of Ireland.
Not only leading her own group on the night, Fiona has been up to her eyes co-ordinating the many carnival workshops which have been taking place across the district. This year’s theme is the Rise of the River Gods, which brings together a fabulous collection of characters from traditions across the world as well as our own mythical creatures, as Fiona explained.
“We had such fun participating in the parade last year that we couldn’t wait to take part again. We loved the ‘Rise of the River Gods’ theme as it gives us the opportunity to bring alive a character that is instantly recognisable in Japan – the Kappa.
“Kappa are green flesh-eating water imps who live in rivers, lakes, ponds, and other watery realms. They are full of mischief and devilment. In our story, the kappa have decided to rise from their murky rivers to try to steal the taiko drums of the warrior drummers in a tale of intrigue and mischief.”
Ibuki Taiko began in 2010 and is the very first and only group of its kind in Northern Ireland.
The performance team are a dedicated group of eight people from all walks of life who have been training with Fiona since 2010 and have played at a variety of high profile events such as Game of Thrones launches, the World Police & Fire Games Opening ceremony, welcoming Prince Charles at Hillsborough Castle, the O-Bon Japanese Festival and many community festival stages. Events such as the Hallowe’en Carnival offer the opportunity for the group to engage with local audiences and share their talents.
“The Hallowe’en carnival provides an excellent platform for local ethnic groups to step up and showcase their own traditions, myths and music to a huge local audience. Taking part not only strengthens bonds within the group itself, it makes everyone feel part of the larger community who gather to watch the parade.
“This is the very first year that we are able to bring our drums onto the parade as the very talented Katsu Umetsu has spent the last couple of months building us a beautiful taiko carrier. We have a great team of 25 children and adults who are working with the Ibuki Taiko performance team to learn rhythms and choreography in our rehearsal space at the Playtrail. So audiences on the night be warned - watch out, there’ll be kappa about…”
For anyone interested in learning more about Ibuki Taiko there are adult and kids’ beginner classes running throughout the year at the Playtrail and the Diamond Centre, Claudy. New members are always welcome and can contact Fiona on 07726611862.
And if you would like to see the group perform as part of the Rise of the River Gods Hallowe’en Carnival the parade will be following the usual route along the Strand Road returning along Queen’s Quay from 7pm on Saturday October 31.
For more information on all the events taking place throughout the Hallowe’en Festival, go to www.derrystrabane.com/halloween