Chinese New Year starts with a bang (on the drum)

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, February 21, 2023

KANNAPOLIS — Even though New Year’s was almost two months ago, there is still cause for celebration. The Chinese New Year was on Jan. 22, but it looks like there are some who are still getting into the spirit.

On Monday, the Cabarrus County Library in Kannapolis hosted a special event called “Drumming in the New Year” where Tampa Taiko, a performance program run by Ron Collins, played traditional Asian instruments and songs for an enthusiastic crowd of kids and their parents.

Collins convinced some parents and faculty at the library to take part in the fun.

The Chinese or Lunar New Year is based on the different phases of the moon. The meaning behind it is to have good luck for the new year. Taiko is also Japanese for drum. Collins started the business 15 years ago after a career in finance. They are based out of Richmond, Virginia, and they perform all over the coast at libraries, assisted living facilities, schools and theaters. Collins performs with other musicians as well, but tends to do these kind of outreach events by himself.

Kathryn Folk said coming to the performance was a “spontaneous thing” that her daughter-in-law had told her about it. They decided to take her grandchildren to check it out for themselves and they didn’t seem to regret their decision.

Collins said every parade lion has a mirror and a horn in order to stop bad luck.

“It’s been fun, it’s been very interesting, educational. Education and fun together is always a good thing,” Folk said.

Collins makes all the drums himself. He uses wine barrels because it’s cheaper to build them than to buy them. He says it takes about a month to make a single one. The taiko drums were the center of the events until Collins was asked if they did anything for the Chinese New Year.

“We were repeatedly asked about Chinese New Year and do we have a lion? And eventually I said, ‘Yes, we’ve got a lion.’ We went out and got a lion and we started adding the Chinese angle to it,” Collins said. Collins showed off their “authentic parade lion” and went into detail on how it functions.

The best part of the day was having all of the kids bang away at the drums.

At the end of his performances, Collins had all the kids and even some parents help play the drums and take part in their own song. Collins tries to give the kids as much history about the instruments and customs as he can even though he knows that’s not what they’ll remember the most.

“Really, 20, 30 years from now they’ll never forget playing these big, huge drums at the library,” Collins said.