I was kind of stuck as to what to post this week. There is so much music and so many fantastic resources out there that I want to, and am going to share, but today I needed some inspiration. I began to noodle around on NPR and YouTube when I noticed that I had gotten an email from my mom. And then it hit me! Taiko! I’ll feature Japanese traditional drums this week.
OK, let me back up. I should tell you that I’m not Japanese. I am white as white can be, but I was raised around taiko drumming and Japanese American culture from the time I was eleven because my mother, who is just as white as I am, was the first caucation American woman to play taiko in the States when she started in 1981. (This may be a fish tale, but that’s the way I’ve always heard the story and I’m sticking to it.) So, I set about to search for some video of one of the best and well-known taiko groups in the world, KODO and then… BAM!
I’ll have to get to the taiko in a minute because in my YouTube search for videos of KODO, I came across this Yashida Brothers’ song – KODO. Holy moly!! This video blew my mind:
If you’re not familiar with the instrument that these guys are playing, it’s called the shamisen. I remember this instrument being played at the many Taiko concerts I attended with my mom and thought that it was lovely, but the continuous clapping sound of the paddle hitting the body of the instrument pierced my Western ear in such a way that it turned me off. Well, color me turned on! The Yashida Brothers’ style of contemporary shamisen music, I am pleased to say, I truly enjoy, and I hope you do, too.
OK, onto taiko. This is a great description of taiko from the San Francisco Taiko Dojo web site (a group with which my mother played for years):
The history of Taiko is interwoven in the fabric of Japanese history. Regarded as sacred since ancient times, the drum was first used to drive away evil spirits and pests harmful to crops. It was believed that by imitating the sound of thunder, the spirit of rain would be forced into action. At harvest time, Taiko was joyfully played in thanks for a bountiful crop. Today, this spiritual aspect of Taiko has faded with the modernization of Japan. What was once an integral part of daily life is now just a festival relic.
However, a cultural renaissance has been taking place in Japan — a rediscovery of native arts. Today, every school child in Japan knows of Taiko and many corporate events feature Taiko drummers. With the dedication of a small number of Taiko masters and enthusiasts, it has been again popularized and is played in festivals throughout the world.
And now, KODO! This is the best compilation of what taiko is that I could find. It’s a bit lengthy, but it is truly the best example of the breadth of the genre. Taiko is dynamic, precise, athletic, festive, and overall impressive music. (check out minute 6:20. Shime-daiko at its best.)
For more KODO videos, visit their YouTube page.
Taiko is a style of music that I have loved all my life. I would so strongly encourage anyone to seek out Obon or Cherry Blossom festivals in your city. The food is good, the people are nice, and the music is fantastic!!
Japanese is one of the 38 languages that Livemocha teaches. If you want to learn Japanese, be sure to visit the this page for more details.
Happy Saturday everyone.