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November 2, 2022

WADAIKO in Malawi

Name: Megumi Takahashi
Batch: 2021-1
Position: Primary School Teacher
Location: Kabuthu Teacher Development Centre
Place of birth: Nishi-Tokyo City, Tokyo

Hello everyone! My name is Megumi Takahashi, I am a Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer (JOCV) in the field of Primary School Education and I am based at Kabuthu Teacher Development Centre (TDC) in Nsalu, Lilongwe. I mainly teach Expressive Arts (EA), which combines Physical Education, Music, Arts and Crafts, Home Economics and Drama at primary schools in the Kabuthu zone, in cooperation with local teachers. As part of my duties as a volunteer, I improvise teaching materials and equipment using locally available materials, plan and organise club activities and school events related to Expressive Arts.

In this article, I would like to introduce to you some of the club activities that I conduct in Malawi. I started a "Taiko" Club at Kabuthu Primary School, which is our central school. "Taiko" is a broad range of Japanese percussion instruments. The purpose of this club is to give the children of the zone an opportunity to know the joy of playing taiko and the fun of playing it together with others. You may probably be wondering, "Is there taiko in Malawi?" Of course the answer is No! Taiko is not there in Malawi. We started the club activities by making Japanese drums by hand. Even if you do not have a musical instrument, you can still play music if you get creative with what you have. It is very easy to make Japanese drums. With just two materials that are easily available in Malawi, we are able to make Japanese drums.

PhotoPoster announcing the activity days of the taiko club.

PhotoHandmade Japanese drums

All you need is a bucket and a tape. Just stick the pins and tape around, through the center of the bucket, leaving no gaps, and you are done. The sound is almost identical to that of a real Japanese drum. By changing the size of the bucket, you can also change the pitch of the sound. For drum sticks, we used branches from trees that had fallen down along the road.

PhotoMembers of the Taiko Club

Taiko Club has become extremely popular among the students, with over 100 of them wanting to join the club. We now have members from Grades 5, 6 and 7 who play energetically every week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Malawian children have a great sense of rhythm. However, they are not very good at hitting the notes at a set tempo (laughs). They have a particularly hard time with the unique Japanese taiko rhythm, which is new to them, but they practice hard every time. Some of the students stay behind to practice even after the club finishes. Unfortunately, students in grades 4 and below and grade 8 students who are preparing for exams are not allowed to participate. Many of them always ask me, "Can I join when I become a grade 5 student?" I am so happy to note that these students look forward to the day when they can join the club.

PhotoPractice: children in Malawi, where teaching and giving each other over comes naturally

A year has passed since I came to Malawi and I have about six months left before finishing my term as a volunteer in Malawi. The excitement and happy expressions on the children's faces when they encounter a new world and a new themselves is what makes my life worth living now. Aiming for that day when each one of them can shine as they are, I will continue to show them how fun it is to express themselves in the arts field.


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