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Summary Of The Fine Art Of Japanese Taiko Drumming And How It Has Influenced To Western Culture.

1059 words - 4 pages

Taiko: A Blossoming ArtAs a musician I am continually searching for new instruments and sounds to experiment with. Percussion is my forte' and for years I have been fascinated with the monstrous drums of Asia, in particular Japan's Taiko, or "fat drum". The word Taiko refers not only to the enormous barrel shaped drum, which now comes in many different sizes, but also the music itself. Almost everyone has seen a movie or an image of a muscle bound man pounding a gigantic drum with sticks that resemble axe handles perched upon high in a temple or religious ceremony. At least this is the image that I remember and this is the way it was, that is, until it was given a facelift in the 20th century. It can be said that Japan is society who prides themselves in seclusion and tradition. I believe that it is because of this mentality that the art form of Taiko has quickly become Japan's number one native musical export to spread worldwide. In contrast it took the influence of the west to make Taiko the ensemble powerhouse and musical force that is today. To better understand the impact of Taiko music we must first journey to ancient Japan where the Taiko art form was born.The exact origin of Taiko has always been shrouded in mystery, but that's not to say that there are no compelling answers and facts that together explain its beginnings. The first piece of physical evidence came in the form of a clay Haniwa figure, which dated Taiko as far back as the sixth century. It is known that Japan has in the past borrowed musical instruments, scales, styles and such from its culture rich neighbors, so it makes perfect sense that Taiko's origins are of the same. Taiko's distinct physical characteristics " bear a strong resemblance to Chinese and Korean instruments, which were probably introduced in the waves of Korean and Chinese cultural influence from 300-900 A.D." ( pg2)It was during reign of Emperor Keitai in the sixteenth century that Taiko started to take shape and began its long popular history with the martial arts, not yet for it's musical qualities. Keitai gave an early rendition of the massive drum, one of his own designs that had only one covered head as opposed to two, to his soldiers " to raise the morale, and frighten away hostile enemies." ( pg2) Like many cultures that used drums as a means for communication the Taiko was used for communicating everything from warnings to war commands, and because of its volume and punch the sound can easily carry through almost any condition.The musical beginnings of Taiko can be traced to its religious influence, not unlike many of Japans performance arts. Most important was the Buddhist and Shinto influence. Japanese instruments were now being used by "imperial household musicians and temple and shrine troupes." (Dolan and Worden 180) Buddhism's greatest contribution to Taiko in particular was the "introduction of rhythmic chants that were joined with native ideas" which in return began a...

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