The sounds of drums encompassed the Campus Center as Taiko Drummers shared the sound of Japanese culture from around the world.
The Asian and Pacific Islander event included performances from Taiko drummers, Polynesian dancers from Uhane Hawai’i, and a Kung Fu demonstration. The event was a time for the community to learn about and celebrate the Asian and Pacific Islander community in Bend.
The festival has been taking place for 13 years and has become a Central Oregon Community College tradition. Math professor, Julie Keener, and Human Development Professor Sara Henson began the festival in 2004.
“It started with a community of parents who had adopted kids from Asia thirteen years ago,” Henson said. “They would meet at restaurants around town, and eventually the group got so large, [so] Julie Keener had the idea to get them involved with COCC, [so] this festival and the Asian Club were born.”
“[At] first, it was a Chinese New Year celebration. We even held it in Grandview one year,” Keener said.
Eventually, the Chinese New Year Celebration evolved into the Asian and Pacific Islander Festival to become more inclusive.
Lin Houng, a andarin professor at COCC, manned one of the many stands at the festival. There were unique booths ranging from tea stands to origami., Later at the event, Houng led a multi-language singing performance with her students.
“The festival has certainly helped develop the asian community in Bend. We were able to bring the Chinese program back to COCC in 2015, and it’s nice to see the Asian Club and the multitude of high school clubs and programs emerge in the community,” said Houng.
The Chinese Department is offering a new class this fall: Chinese Culture through Film. One of the largest performances at the festival was lead by En Taiko, a Portland based Japanese drum group. Barber Librarian Yasuko Jackson manned an origami booth at the festival. Jackson is a long time friend of En Taiko’s Artistic Director, Kazuyo Ito. He persuaded Ito to send En Taiko to COCC.
“The last time En Taiko performed here was two years ago,” Jackson said. “They are really good. En Taiko has performed around the world and are very keen on spreading Japanese culture wherever they go. They take their performance very seriously, but are just playful enough to experiment with different instruments and techniques.”
The last performance of the evening was by the students of the Chinese Department. COCC and Summit High School student Lia Keener stated,“It was a good chance to get involved with the chinese program.I really liked the diversity present here.”Keener currently has an exploratory major.
Second year student, Daniel Castro, also performed.
“I originally wanted to do Japanese, but COCC only offered Chinese, but it grew on me, and before I knew it I was up there singing. [Prof. Lin Houng] decided to get the class together because most of us were also musicians,” said Castro. “I really appreciated the diversity and cultural pride in the crowd today.” Castro is currently a degree in Foreign Language.
To learn more about En Taiko, visit www.entaiko.org.
By Anthony Lanuza | The Broadside