A Brief History of Taiko Drumming

In Japanese, Taiko literally means 'big drum'.

Taiko drumming has been part of Japanese culture for hundreds of years. Its roots lie in the countless temples and shrines scattered all over Japan where they are played in religious festivals and ceremonies. Taiko drums are paraded through the streets calling the locals to join the festival. Taiko is also played at rice planting ceremonies, its thunderous overtones waking the rain Gods. It is said that the furthest point at which the village Taiko could be heard marked the edge of the village.

Taiko drums have evolved with flutes and other percussion into many forms of Japanese music, dance and theatre. It is only in the last forty years that Taiko has become a performance art in itself. Groups like Ondekoza, Kodo and Yamato regularly bring Taiko to a global audience. Click here to see our trainers performing Taiko. Meanwhile, in Japan there are around fifteen thousand Taiko drumming groups, amateur and professional, encompassing a vast range of playing styles and sounds.

Taiko drums are typically made from one piece of hollowed-out wood, with a cow hide stretched over each end. They range in size from six inches to a massive six feet in diameter. A Taiko group may contain anything from two to fifteen members. The drums can be played in many different positions - from sitting down with light pointed sticks, to leaping with a baseball bat! For players and audiences alike, Taiko is an intensely musical and physical experience. In keeping with many martial arts, it demands stamina, both of the mind and of the body. Taiko is also immense fun to see and play, and because of its village roots, Taiko is truly the music of the people!

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