Taiko : The Sounds of the Gods,If you can say it, you can play it

The sounds of Taiko or Japanese drums have never failed to impress me.Growing up in a country where music has deep roots in religion and culture, my fusion with music started at an early age in life. Later on, in high school days, with rebellious mind set, I started to explore rock music as a way of portraying my attitude towards dissatisfaction of ways of people surrounding me.

My first encounters with Taiko were immediately after joining my masters in Japan. I remember having various festivals in university where there were performances by Taiko drummers. I tried my best to make time to watch all Taiko performances back then.

I called it, “The Sounds of the Gods”. The drummers had an amazing synchronization that would even put the best automated machines to shame. The amount of energy during those performances, both of the ones playing and the listeners, was enough to motivate an army of soldiers going in for a battle. And rightfully so, In feudal Japan, Taiko was used to motivate troops going into a battle and even used for making announcements during a battle. As goes the popular Japanese saying, “If you can say it, you can play it”.

The synchronized movements used in Taiko resemble movements that are used in martial arts with “Ki-ais”, which is essentially shouting to encourage high energy.

The drums themselves are traditional Japanese drums with a wooden body and heads made of stretched cow or horse skin, struck with sticks and come in many sizes; with three basic ones as Odaiko or Big Drum, Jozuke or the Medium Drum and Shime, the Small Drum. Uchite (The Taiko drummer), can wear loose fitting happi (short coat), with an obi (belt), hachimaki (headband), and tabi (shoes with big toe separated).Additionally, there are four different kinds of performances that can be given to an audience, each a combination of single or multiple players or drums.

The syllables used in Taiko are:
Do or Don – strike hara(center of drum skin)
Ka or Ko – strike fuchi (edge of the drum)
Do-Ron or Do-Ka – strike 2 times on hara
Ka-Ra – strike 2 times on fuchi
Do-Don – strike 2 times on hara, second strike being stronger
Su – rest (silence) for half the time that of Don
Tsu – play lightly for same time as Don

Although, Taiko is a traditional form of performance, however there are artists like Gocco which have skillfully fused the western and eastern style of play.I have added two videos of Taiko, one being played in traditional style by Kodo and the other by Gocco which has its influence from western music and is more free form of Taiko.

 “O-Daiko” Performed by KODO


“Daichi no Kioku” Performed by GOCOO


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