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Tamashii Taiko Drummers
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groups around the world,
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A Brief History of Taiko
Ancient Taiko - The Origins of the Japanese Drum
According to most sources, taiko drums have been found in Japan dating back 3,000 years or more.
It is widely thought to have been brought into Japan by Buddhist monks as they migrated through Korea. In uniquely Japanese fashion, the drums were modified, and adopted into mainstream Japanese culture, with a distinctly Japanese style of craftsmanship.
"Taiko", in Japanese means simply "big drum". Unlike modern electronics, which the Japanese are world-renown for their ability to make smaller, drums could only be improved by making them bigger. Often, much, much bigger.
Originally, taiko were used for Buddhist religious ceremonies, and adapted for military communications. It's easy to imagine that long ago, telling an army "speed up", "slow down", "turn left", couldn't be accomplished using radio or mobile phones. Drums could be heard far away and could be used to set the marching pace as well.
It is also reported that taiko drums were used to define village boundaries. A drum was placed in the centre of the village, and played continually all day long. The farthest distance at which the drum could be heard, defined the boundaries of that village, and told travelers when they were entering a village.
This directly influenced the development of stronger playing styles, and the development of the giant O-Daiko drum.
Modern Taiko - The Musical Ensemble
In the 1950's, a Japanese Jazz musician by the name of Daihachi Oguchi was determined to fuse traditional Japanese drums into a modern ensemble format. He founded one of the first taiko groups and pioneered modern taiko as we know it.
Modern taiko nearly always involves a large group of performers, often with a wide variety of drum types. Other instruments such as flute, chappa, and tettsu-zutsu also frequently accompany to create an enormous range of rhythm and melody.