If you’d like to introduce your kids to an unforgettable global musical experience, check out the international phenomenon of taiko drumming. Taiko means wide drum in Japanese, but taiko drumming is no ordinary drumming performance. The exuberant rhythm pounded into a variety of drums is a whole body experience. After enjoying the taiko drumming performance from front row seats in a recent international festival, my youngest daughter told me “I feel the drums inside me!” Here is a short description of the historical significance of taiko drums, a geographical directory of taiko drumming groups, and some excellent videos for your kids to watch of taiko drummers (some of them are kids themselves!).
Some experts say that the drums have been used for more than 2000 years, while others believe they have been used since the sixth century. Whatever the case may be, taiko drums have been used throughout Japanese history from an instrument in war to a refined instrument in the imperial court. In battle, the instrument could be heard across the battlefield to give commands or intimidate the enemy. Some historians believe that taiko drums were used for to signal to other villages that the hunters were setting out, or that a storm was coming and that the women needed to bring in the meat and fruits they had drying. In addition, Buddhist and Shinto religious ceremonies included taiko music in their shrines and temples, to accompany chants. Fast-forward to the 1950’s, when a jazz drummer (Daihachi Oguchi) found an old piece of taiko music. He fused simple rhythms, with bell-type instruments and an ensemble of drummers, and soon his popularity spilled out of Japan to other countries.
Today, the boom in popularity has taiko drumming groups performing around the globe: you can enjoy groups everywhere from EPCOT in Disney World, Florida (US) to Australia’s Got Talent show to Lithuania to the Acropolis, in Athens Greece. The booming, energetic drumming is a great way to introduce global music to kids (and adults!). The incredible shows astound and mesmerize all ages in theaters, at international festivals, and on university campuses: find a group near you today in this geographic directory, made by Rolling Thunder: Your Total Taiko Resource. Many of the groups listed have regularly scheduled performances, or accept invitations to perform at schools, fairs, etc:
If you aren’t able to experience taiko live, here are some excellent videos of memorable performances. (The second video is of 6th graders in Japan….beware- your kids might start begging for a drum set:).
If your little one is into video games, look for “Taiko: Drum Master,” also known as “Taiko no Tatsujin” (太鼓の達人). This drumming game for the Sony PlayStation is 2 based on the popular Japanese arcade game, and has kids drumming along to various pop and anime songs.