Drumming ensembles can be found around the world, in all cultures and throughout history, each defining the history and beliefs of the countries from which they were born. While many have enjoyed the popularity of West African drums or Latin rhythms, there is a growing interest in an ancient form of ensemble drumming descending upon us from the East – Taiko drumming.
Japanese Taiko drumming refers to the ensemble-style drumming that is both rhythmic and visual, all in one multidimensional experience. This awe-inspiring art has been dated back to perhaps the sixth or seventh century, but, the actual origin is unknown. Taiko, itself, means, “fat drum.” This size description is evident when seeing these large drums played by men (and, the growing number of women Taiko drummers), giving orchestral tympani drums a run for their money. Historically, the low, thunderous beat of the Taiko was an important warning when it was used during times of war. It is said that the Taiko was able to be heard across entire battlefields, helping to order troops into place and intimidate opposing forces.
Today, however, Taiko has become more of a performance art than a need in times of war. Taiko drummers are not only challenged to bring a structured rhythm into the performance, but, they accomplish this through full-body movements that can make the drumming more of a dance than a drumming event. The rhythm is enhanced by the beauty of the movements involved, creating a feeling of spiritual connection to the drumming – a similar concept in all cultural drumming – but perhaps not illustrated as eloquently as in Taiko.
With the cultural influence of Japan around the world, it is no wonder that Taiko drumming is increasing in popularity as a musical experience, as well as within modern, spiritual and wellness circles. Through the demonstration of the power of ensemble drumming, the Taiko drummer not only defines the culture of Japan, but, also shows that the similarities in drumming and percussion around the world are a uniting force for us all.