History of Taiko

Taiko, though primarily known as a modern Japanese art form, contains both an ancient and a modern history.

Taiko, which literally means "drum" in Japanese, stem back over 1000 years in Japan. They were originally used as military instruments and as a time keeper for daily village life. As a result of its importance in Japanese culture, Taiko also came to be associated with religious activities. In later periods, the Taiko was played as a centerpiece at festivals, or Matsuri.

Modern Taiko, as it is known today in its ensemble (Kumi-daiko) art form, dates back only half a century to the post war Jazz musician Daihachi Oguchi. Oguchi was the first artist to bring Taiko together in an ensemble format, using multiple drums and rhythms within a single arrangement. When the Japanese government established funds aimed at the preservation of Japanese culture, a reaction against increasing Western influence in Japan, Taiko groups began forming all throughout the country. The most notable of these groups, Za Ondekoza, and later Kodo, have gone on to attain world recognition.

Taiko was brought to North America in 1968 by Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka and the founding of America's first Kumi-Daiko ensemble, San Francisco Taiko Dojo. Since then, hundreds of ensembles have been established across the U.S. and Canada, many of which trace their beginnings directly back to San Francisco Taiko Dojo. Other early North American Taiko pioneers were Kinnara Taiko in Los Angeles, San Jose Taiko, and Kenny Endo's Taiko Center of the Pacific in Honolulu.

Since its origins 40 years ago, North American Taiko has taken off as a popular art form, fusing traditional drumming with many modern styles of music. Its power and dynamism has inspired the establishment of hundreds of groups across the continent. With the recent popularity Taiko has gained on college campuses, many collegiate groups have formed at universities throughout the country beginning with the first collegiate group, Kyodo Taiko, at UCLA in 1990. While there now exist many different techniques and styles of Taiko amongst the numerous groups across North America, each ensemble shares the same love of the art form and strives to spread the excitement and joy of drumming to audiences everywhere.

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