Being at college is great. We get exposed to all of these cultural experiences … you know the kind that seem so fake and trite in other contexts - they really take on a meaning when on a university campus. People might be majoring in the study of the language of the country, might have lived there for a semester, or may have a professor from there. Furthermore, these experiences helps break up our [sadly] homogeneous group of campus residents. Mykala invited me to come hear ‘Taiko.’
We learned from these folks, who are part of a Taiko group in the cities. This musical drumming began in ancient Japan, and the modern day equivalent is in a group form, called ‘kumi daiko.’ The drums we saw are made from wine barrels, and tuned (the skin is stretched over the ends) using car jacks. That method is slightly different from the Japanese drums, which hollow out trees and use a twisting method to apply tension, but the concept is the same - and the results are stunning. The large drum (the “Odaiko”) filled the entire room upon the first strike, and everyone in the audience was held far more transfixed than I think they imagined they would be.
The drumming could be likened to a dance; the performers moved about the drums with precision, drawing subtle nuances of rythm out of what seemed to be rudimentary instruments. There descriptions of their learning process (taiko is learned by ear, and by “Kuchi-shoka,” the phonetic sounds spoken to learn the drumming patterns) were engaging and entertaining. I can certainly see how they consistently fill their beginner classes with people eager to experiment with this art form.
If you see a kumi taiko group on your campus, you know what to do.