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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 19, 2001

TaKeTiNa teaches music via movement, syllables

By Jean Chow
Advertiser Staff Writer

Deborah Masterson plays a stringed drone called a berimbau and Tiffany Severns drums for a TaKeTiNa exercise.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser


6:30-8:30 p.m., Wednesdays, through August, except on July 25

Above Golden Phoenix bookstore (1251-B South King St.)


Another series will begin at the Mo'ili'ili Community Center on Sept. 19

mastersn@hawaii.edu and www.taketina.com

Stepping, clapping and vocalizing. Pretty simple. But try stepping, clapping and vocalizing simultaneously, in rhythm with a bunch of strangers.

That's TaKeTiNa.

Developed by Austrian composer and percussionist Reinhard Flatischler in 1970, TaKeTiNa emerged as a way of learning and understanding rhythm, influencing the European music, dance and therapy scenes for years before making its first appearance in Hawai'i just a few years ago.

"I was so taken by it. It was something I wanted to do really badly," said Deborah Masterson, who works in the University of Hawai'i foreign-language publications office and is the only certified TaKeTiNa teacher in the state. For three years, beginning in 1997, Masterson was part of the first non-European class to be taught by Flatischler in the form of periodic retreats held just outside Portland, Ore. As part of her training, she has been holding weekly workshops in Hawai'i since 1999.

The classes average just a handful of students — five to 10 people, but Masterson isn't discouraged. She said many people don't yet know about the technique, and that Hawai'i lacks what she called a "workshop culture." "And it might even be the weather," she said. "People on the Mainland, especially in the winter, want to do things indoors, but not here in Hawai'i."

The TaKeTiNa classes meet on Wednesday nights in a small room above the Golden Phoenix bookstore in Honolulu. It is a diverse group in terms of age, racial background and professions. Some chit-chat is exchanged before Masterson informally welcomes everyone, has them form a circle, and signals that an exercise is about to begin.

It starts off easy, as participants are told to step side to side while calling out syllables such as "Ga," "Ma" and "La" to the constant beat of a Brazilian drum called the surdo. Bells are tied around each person's ankles, so each step makes a jingle. This goes on for awhile, and before long, everyone falls into a pattern and the entire circle is moving to the left and to the right at the same time, accompanied by the sounds of the drum, bells and voices.

Then come the more challenging tasks. Participants are told to emphasize just one of the syllables by saying it louder. In addition, they are to point at someone else in the circle on yet another syllable. Pretty soon, the pointing turns into clapping, and even more emphasized syllables and claps are added. All the while, the feet continue in their left-right movement. The goal is for each person to keep at each task simultaneously without falling out of rhythm — and what results is a feeling of chaos, but at the same time, order.

Not surprisingly, the process can be frustrating, but "getting it" is what makes the whole thing worthwhile.

"It was interesting to harmonize all the rhythms with my different body parts. I felt really good, free — I got something out of it that I never got before. It was like getting back into myself," said Chie Takahashi, a UH graduate student who has been to two sessions and plans to return.

Masterson encourages everyone to give TaKeTiNa a try and emphasizes that the rhythmic experience can and does mean different things to different people. For some, TaKeTiNa is spiritual. For others, it's a means of relaxation. For yet others, it may be an exercise to increase coordination. Or something else completely.

"TaKeTiNa provides a way for us to learn about ourselves as individuals and as members of a group by accessing the rhythmic roots of all cultures. As humans, our lives are governed by rhythms and cycles. However, in today's world it is easy to lose contact with these basic rhythms. In TaKeTiNa, we immerse ourselves in rhythm and reconnect with our fundamental rhythmic nature," said Masterson.

"Everyone has stuff in their life that they don't like about themselves. TaKeTiNa makes me look at that stuff seriously. It's a way to look at how you live your life from a really different perspective," she said.

Jen Rodwell, a student who has been learning TaKeTiNa from Masterson for almost a year, describes it in another way. "For me, it's the most 'experiential' analogy of life — I can experience the whole of life, everything in everyday life, in one circle," she said. "It's like a moving meditation, and I always come out with a little more balance (in life) than what I went in with."

Whatever it may be, TaKeTiNa, whose name comes from some of the syllables used in the rhythmic process, offers something for everyone, from the professional drummer to someone who has had no previous experience with music or dance.

"I hope this is something people will discover and find useful," said Masterson of the rhythmic experience. "It's not something you can really describe, but I love it and want to find others who'll love it."