Taiko Drumming in the Twin Cities
Taiko (literally "fat drum") is the Japanese generic term for drum. It refers to both the modern style of ensemble drumming (kumi-daiko) and the taiko drums themselves, which can be of differing shapes and sizes. Drums in ancient Japan were an integral part of daily living. They were used to drive evil spirits away from crops during planting, for celebration during harvest time, to ward off enemies in battle, and in religious ceremonies.
| Mu Daiko in performance |
With modernization, this practice was becoming lost. It was in the 1950s, after the Second drumming as we know it today. The art of taiko drumming was introduced to the U.S. in 1968 when Grandmaster Seiichi Tanaka established the San Francisco Taiko Dojo. Since then, Tanaka and the San Francisco Taiko Dojo have inspired the formation of many other Taiko drumming ensembles around the country.
How Taiko came to the Twin Cities: Rick Shiomi, founder of Theater Mu
Mu Daiko was formed in the summer of 1997 by Rick Shiomi, artistic director and a founding member of Theater Mu, an Asian-American theater company based in Minneapolis. Shiomi has been involved with Taiko drumming since 1979, and has studied with Grandmaster Seiichi Tanaka. Throughout his career, Shiomi has performed with taiko ensembles, including Soh Daiko of New York and The San Jose Taiko Group. He also helped establish Wasabi Daiko in Toronto. Shiomi came to the Twin Cities originally to teach at Ausburg College, and has been involved with Theater Mu since 1992.
The growth of Mu Daiko
In four years, Mu Daiko has established itself as an exciting performing ensemble in the Twin Cities and has maintained a busy schedule, including an annual concert every December and about 150 outreach performances every year for schools and community organizations. Classes in taiko drumming are available through Theater Mu. There are introductory and on-going classes for children, youth and adults. Information for these is posted on Theater Mu's website.
| || Mu Daiko in rehearsal |
In December 2001, Mu Daiko presented Spirit Drums: A Mu Daiko Concert, a series of concerts co-presented by the Southern Theater at which Grandmaster Seiichi Tanaka and the San Francisco Taiko Dojo were featured guests. Attending one of the concerts was an exciting experience. The audience experience the pounding, driving rhythms aurally, and physically through vibrations. The visual aspects of the stick work on drums and the choreography is also appealing. Taiko is not just drumming - it is a combination of movement, rhythm, discipline and control. There was also an aspect of communication between the performers and it was obvious that they were enjoying themselves immensely.
The love of Taiko: movement, rhythm, discipline, control
Taiko drumming is thrilling for the performer and audience alike. Shiomi describes the art of taiko drumming as being not only about hitting the drums, but also about control: "it's almost a controlled loudness ... a surge of energy." The performers of Mu Daiko agree. Responses from questionnaires revealed some reasons why they were drawn to performing with the ensemble and what Taiko means to them.
One performer had heard about taiko drumming while living in Japan. This performer was drawn to it because of its combination of rhythm, movement, spirit and theater. She stage managed a taiko performance and was drawn to its physicality and loudness. The taiko drummers talk about the sense of community, exercise, and creative expression they get from drumming. They said it's a good way to relieve stress. One performer talked about the cultural and personal connections, group identity, joy of performance, the creation of a new art form, and a sense of ultimate calm. As one performer said, "Taiko has a primal element where the rhythm takes on your soul and leaves you at peace. The stresses of the day wash away. I always leave practice/rehearsal energized - even if a little tired."
Theatre Mu: Information about taiko drumming classes in the Twin Cities
Minnesota Taiko Cooperative: Builders of taiko drums, stands, and accessories
-- Main.chri2397 - 23 Jul 2009