In Japanese, “taiko” means “drum”–or, more descriptively, “great drum.” If you’ve ever seen a taiko drumming performance in person, the phrase “great drum” makes sense. Taiko drumming is big, broad and acrobatic. Taiko drummers approach their instruments with confidence and flair, most often striking them with straight wooden sticks known as a bachi to make huge sounds.
Though theatrical taiko drumming performances are a relatively recent phenomenon–Daihachi Oguchi debuted the first taiko drumming ensemble in 1951–taiko drumming originated to millennia ago as a part of the ancient Japanese court music. Like many gegaku compositions, often taiko compositions follow the jo-ha-kyū structure–essentially, “beginning, break, rapid”–which begins with a free-feeling “jo,” establishes itself in the “ha” and builds up speed up significantly in the “kyū” section, resulting in a triumphant finale.
Meet one of our favorite Taiko ensembles:
Kodo is a thirty year old Japanese taiko drumming group based on Sado Island, Japan, and has played a central role in the global popularization of taiko. According to Kodo’s website, “In Japanese the word “Kodo” conveys two meanings: Firstly, ‘heartbeat’ the primal source of all rhythm. The sound of the great taiko is said to resemble a mother’s heartbeat as felt in the womb, and it is no myth that babies are often lulled asleep by its thunderous vibrations. Secondly, read in a different way, the word can mean ‘children of the drum,’ a reflection of Kodo’s desire to play the drums simply, with the heart of a child.” Since the group’s debut in 1981 it has performed over 3,300 times globally and has organized countless hands-on workshops to inspire new generations of Japanese and non-Japanese taiko lovers to rediscover their traditional culture as a way of discovering something new about themselves.
Wikipedia on Kodo | Kodo’s bio from their website | Want to hire Yoshikazu Fujimoto for your next party? How about Cheiko Kojima?Â What about Motofumi Yamaguchi…? | Watch Kodo perform “O Daiko” live: those are some big, big drums | A mix of everything Kodo