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Tai-ko: the Great Drum

Bloggers! Long time no read :D

Let’s talk Taiko, traditional drums of Japan. This blog’s subject will surround one totally fantabulous instance: my visit to the Taiko Labs.

Anybody who’s interested in music, this is absolutely the place for you to visit. You don’t just have to be a drummer to check this out—heck, I’m only a violinist and this was Ah-May-Zing! It’s not only awesome music and a jaw-dropping demo, but you get to play a taiko drum and feel what the drummer does. This drum is pretty big, and pretty tough to hit. If you’re not careful, those bachi you play it with will recoil and pop you right back!

Like any other aspect of the Japanese culture, this requires a good bit of discipline. Honestly, not just anyone can be a Taiko drummer. And man, it really is an art form as much as exciting music.

The first sight I laid eyes on when entering the sound-proof studio was a small river of large taiko drums.

TaikoLab (4)

We had a nice instructor who took us through the motions of playing a simple pattern, then adding complications with having only half of us play, then half the room play one chorus while the other half played the second part, then switch off. We even had a moment where some of us drumming next to each other had to switch to each others’ drums between beats, then hurry and switch back. It was fantastic, and a ton of fun. I loved the energy that our instructor brought into the room, and the sound of the drum vibrating thorough everyone was exhilarating. It made you want to play and be a part of the fun. The shouts in particular added to the mood. We chanted “So-re, so-re, so-re!” periodically through playing, in time with the beat.

The closest possible thing to that kind of thrill that I’ve ever experienced is, like, being in the student section of a college football game, while your team is winning. It’s that kind of rush that keeps you all moving and shouting together. It actually brings a strong sense of unity, playing together like that.

Then our instructors came out to give a demonstration.

And basically, playtime was over.

TaikoLab (36)

Watching them perform left me speechless. I could only stay behind that camera of mine and stare. In particular, the man in the center of the above picture, Tanaka Masayoshi. He wrote two of the three songs performed. And seriously, this guy is unbelievable. If there’s anyone out there who truly loves what they do in life, and is as serious about it as they like it, it’s Masayoshi-san.

…Your entire world narrowing and to the skin of that drum face… How much of his life went into loving, understanding, and working with that instrument, though it’s just a drum?… The force with which they were beating those taiko left me with baited breath, waiting for when it would finally break… I thought of the meiji shrine and the large statues of fuujin, god of wind, and raijin, the god of thunder. The way that he played, making the room shake—I could feel the vibration through me, if that makes any sense. Kinda’ like standing next to a bass speaker and feeling vibrations hit you. That was incredible and powerful in a way that’s tough to describe. I do know one thing, though. The three of them out there?

Tonight, they were the gods of thunder.




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