What is taiko? (If you just want to see the video, scroll down.)
When I started my MPhil. program at The University of Hong Kong in Ethnomusicology, I wanted to write about taiko's history. To begin, I needed to articulate a definition of taiko. For many months I read articles, books, watched movies, dissected concerts. I interviewed a wide range of players from the novice to Eitetsu Hayashi, in the United States, in Japan, around Asia. While I sought clarity, everything became more muddled. This question, "What is taiko," was no longer a starting point to my thesis, it became the thesis itself.
Each person I read about, studied, or talked to had different ideas about taiko but there seemed to be one constant: community. Taiko involves community, relies on community, creates community. This idea was intriguing and I wanted to understand more about the taiko community and what was unique and special about it.
In The Study of Ethnomusicology (279-280), Bruno Nettl states, “...besides the excellent, the outstanding, who represents the musical ideal in composition or performance, we need an understanding of the ordinary but musically acceptable person... It is such people who comprise the real mainstream of musical life in the world, make music a cultural and human universal, constitute the acceptable everyday experience in a culture.”
With this in mind, in summer 2012 I flew from Hong Kong to the East Coast and rode Megabus for one month, visiting the "ordinary" players of the taiko community to ask them what "Taiko Is..." Below is a compilation video, a small glimpse into the collective definition I came to understand from them. I hope you enjoy it.
A huge thanks to: The Genki Spark, Rutsubo Taiko, Icho Daiko, Dekiru Denison Daiko, Odaiko New England, Kyo Daiko, Philadelphia Taiko Center, O•Daiko (Hong Kong), and Mana Hayashi Tang.
If you'd be willing, please share your definition of taiko in the comments below.
And, for fun, some outtakes: