I’ve been playing and studying the taiko drum for five years. In that time, I’ve discovered that playing taiko has many nuances. It is, in fact, tricky to master all of them, all at once; and I notice that taiko drum performers tend to have elements they gravitate to.
For example, I’m a “drama queen”; I like lots of body movement and big flourishes, or succinct hand/arm movements (like a sweep with a emphasized stop). My friend Brett focuses on creating rhythms within rhythms (or rhythms “against” rhythms). Other players are more interested in “power hitting” (which tends to be more serious and intense) like the photo you see here.
Some like the smaller drum (called a shime, SHE-MEY) while others gravitate toward the big drum (odaiko), often above shoulder level. I prefer the Chu, which you might consider “mid sized” (relatively speaking!) because I feel it allows the most expression.
As you might expect, there’s a big range of approaches to taiko drumming as well, from very traditional Japanese that incorporates other Japanese instruments (or even Japanese dance), to “westernized” takes on the art that use other sounds and instruments, and/or a more choreographed type of movement.
I myself am attracted to the more fluid taiko drumming styles. Japanese style seems so conformist to me – something I’ve never been good at (even my time in the Army didn’t cure me of that aversion to conformism). And my background as a storyteller and experience producing music videos lends itself to a more dramatic inclination that I recently got a chance to explore.
I wrote my first drama/stage performance, Taiko True (about the members of a taiko drum club), in early 2012. In late 2013, I had the opportunity to make some of those scenes come alive on video (much like I’d done with True Surrender when we turned scenes of the book into a music video).
Once again, I was humbled and exhilarated by the process!
A sneak peek at the rehearsal for the fight scene:
In coming weeks, I’ll share more about Michael and Charlotte of Taiko True, whose involvement in taiko drumming is how they find courage in themselves to overcome challenges in their past (and present)… learn to trust in another person… and eventually find love.
For your entertainment, here’s a video showing our practice and rehearsal in preparation for the video shoot. Big thanks to Tracy, Zac, Jennifer, Aaron, John and Brett!