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Taiko, which means "drum" in Japanese, is now the common term for a type of music played by large ensembles composed primarily of drums and other percussion instruments, more specifically called kumi daiko. The origins of this energetic and expressive music can be traced back hundreds of years.
In addition to its use in theater, religious, military and court settings, drums were played in conjunction with dancing at the many peasant festivals in Japan. After the dancers dispersed from the central squares and the drummers were left to their own, they would often continue playing for their own enjoyment. The taiko players began to emphasize this music with other drummers, which eventually developed into kumi daiko. This form was only truly established as recently as the 1950's in Japan, and strongly supported by Japanese American communities in North America since the late 1960's.
Stan Shikuma, a senior member and past artistic director of Seattle Kokon Taiko, learned the art of taiko drumming here in the United States. Stan grew up in a Japanese American community in Watsonville (a small farm town south of San Francisco), celebrating the traditional festivals, but did not play taiko until moving to Seattle in 1981. At the invitation of a friend, he attended a workshop put on by Seattle Taiko Group, and became engrossed in the music. He recalls, "I jumped at the chance and fell in love with it."
Stan left Seattle Taiko Group to form Kokon Taiko Ensemble in 1987, but the two groups merged to form Seattle Kokon Taiko in 1992, and Stan has continued to perform with Seattle Kokon Taiko. Amongst his many other activities associated with taiko, in 2000 Stan was recruited by a group of parents to lead Kaze Daiko, a taiko ensemble for youths in Seattle. The taiko groups are a source of pride among the Japanese American community, and offer a sharing of culture through the recent popularization and acceptance of "world music."
In 1996 Seattle Kokon Taiko was accepted for the Jack Straw Artist Support Program. They used their time in the Jack Straw studios to complete their first CD, Quiet No More. The title springs from their fifteenth anniversary concert, entitled Yakamashii, a phrase reprimanding children for being loud or unruly. The concert was subtitled Quiet No More, expressing the theme of taiko as a liberation for formerly self-censored Japanese Americans. Quiet No More is available at Seattle Kokon Taiko concerts.
For more information on Seattle Kokon Taiko, visit www.seattlekokontaiko.org/ or email SKtaiko@aol.com.
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| ||Listen to a live concert recording of Seattle Kokon Taiko's Hachijo , |
Hachijo is a traditional song adapted by Ondekoza, arranged by Seattle Kokon Taiko.