Sunday, October 21, 2012

Taiko Drumming in Heidelberg

Tonight we went for a performance of a taiko group called Sakura no ki (Cherry Tree):

The nearly all female group under the direction of Liliana Bulic joined Koji Nakamura from Los Angelos and his pupil Takeshi Demise from Milano to  present a variety of different arrangements from Bhuddist religious songs over shinto influenced pieces to modern choreographies. The choreography and precision in general was superb and the pieces very well performed.

If you not only want to see the 'amazon' taiko group, but also hear them, there are several videos on youtube:
Drums are, together with wind instruments,  Japan's oldest musical instruments. Toshi Tsuchitori (土取利行) a percussionist from Kagawa, Japan has been studying Japanese prehistoric music for more than three decades. His performances on Jomon replica clay drums (Jomon-ko) are spectacular; there are many videos on youtube, here is just one example:
Here you can watch a very interesting three-part program describing the research of Toshi Tsuchitori (part 1) and how he produces his own instruments, integrating Ainu and other ethnic music to perform 'Jomon music'. Even though it is in Japanese, it is very interesting and informative for non Japanese speakers. There is enough to watch and hear, so try it out if you are interesting in ancient music.
If you want to know more about Jomon music, here is an excellent article about music and musical instruments in the Jomon period: Jomon music.


  1. Were they used as war drums?

    1. Drums were a medium of communication and since they can be heard over large distances this was certainly one (but not the only one: court music, festivals, rituals, shaman trance etc).
      Excerpt from Wikipedia (taiko) over their use in feudal Japan, but wars were fought much earlier and so drums were certainly used as battle drums from early times on. Yayoi haniwa figures often show warriors but also taiko drummers and their use must not necessarily have been for recreational purposes.

      Uses of the taiko in warfare

      In feudal Japan, taiko were often used to motivate troops, to help set a marching pace, and to call out orders or announcements. Approaching or entering a battle, the taiko yaku (drummer) was responsible for setting the marching pace, usually with six paces per beat of the drum (beat-2-3-4-5-6, beat-2-3-4-5-6).

      According to one of the historical chronicles (the Gunji Yoshu), nine sets of five beats would summon an ally to battle, while nine sets of three beats, sped up three or four times is the call to advance and pursue an enemy.