“Wadaiko” (Wa = Japan , Daiko = drum) means “Japanese drum”.
Today, the term “Taiko” (meaning “Drums”) is most often used to refer to Japanese drums.

Taiko is a form of modern art with ancient roots: practiced for thousands of years, its origin are from Shinto, probably dating back to the 6th century J.C. Its first appearance could even date to the Jomon period (about 7000 BC J.C.).

Japanese drums were originally intended to call the gods on Earth during celebrations. Their function has varied through history, ranging from communication, military action, theatrical accompaniment, and religious ceremony to both festival and concert performances.

Modern taiko began in 1951: Daihachi Oguchi, a former jazz drummer, formed the first kumi daiko ensemble called Osuwa Daiko.
The term “kumi-daiko” refers to a group of musicians playing on drums of different sizes, each with a specific role.

Several other groups emerged in Japan through the 1950s and 1960s.
The Yushima Tenjin Sukeroku Daiko group created in 1959 stand out for the speed, the fluidity and the power of its performances. One of its members, Seido Kobayashi, will eventually create Oedo Sukeroku Daiko, today considered the first professional taiko group.

In 1969, Den Tagayasu founded the group Za Ondekoza on Sado Island, Japan. The group then split up and one of its members, Eitetsu Hayashi, founded the world famous Kodo in 1981.

Since the late 1960s, the practice of modern taiko has been growing worldwide, and since the 1990s, it’s become more and more likely to see women playing taiko.

Here is a list of the different styles in taiko practice:

  • Tachi-uchi (vertical position)

Also called Beta style, the drum is in a vertical position and the player is facing the wadaiko.
> Example of playing by Shoki Kameda

  • Naname-uchi (inclined position)

Also known as Sukeroku style, this style was created by the Oedo Sukeroku Taiko group in Tokyo. The wadaiko is positioned on an inclined stand, that came from its use during “bon daiko” (taiko playing for the dance called “bon odori” at the Obon festival in Japan).
> Extract of a performance of the Oedo Sukeroku Taiko Group

  • Yokomen-uchi – Hachijo-daiko (high horizontal position)

This style comes from Hachijo Island in Japan. The wadaiko is positioned on a high horizontally stand.
 Generally, two players play on each side of the taiko. One plays the rhythmic base called “Shitabyoshi”, and the other plays a rhythm over the base, called “Uwabyoshi” or “Oose”.
> History and practice by Shogo Yoshii

  • Yokomen-uchi – Miyake (low horizontal position)

This style comes from the Miyake Islands in Japan. It was known after the KODO group. The wadaiko is positioned horizontally close to the ground. Generally, two players play on each side of the taiko.
> Extract from the KODO group

  • Suwari-uchi (sitting position)

The wadaiko is positioned  on a slightly inclined stand on the ground, the player is sitting in front of the taiko.
> Video “Yatai Bayashi” – KODO

Taiko’s manufacturing process is an art.
Traditionally, these drums are made of a single log of domestic Keyaki (zelkova) and Meari wood for their durability and the beauty of the grain.
The craftsmen first hollow out the log roughly and then dry it for 3 to 5 years. When the body is dry enough, the craftsmen plane it to perfection and tack the leather on the drumheads.

The next step is a meticulous process that involves sculpting the taiko’s body. Complex patterns are etched in different ways to produce the distinct sound of Taiko.

The exterior of the drum is then lacquered, stained and decorated with beautiful handles.
When the drum skin is stretched on each side with ropes, it is studded by hand. The grounds are completely hidden, letting us only imagine the type of pattern drawn inside.

We share you an article from the blog Atlas Obscura, which highlights the work of the Asano Taiko factory located in Hakusan, Japan. This article shows you through their photos the differents patterns inside the taikos: tight zig-zags, six-sided turtle back, fish scale, and tornado: Article Asano Taiko – Atlas Obscura

Want to learn more about taiko?

On history:
> wikipedia
> www.taiko.com
> www.taikosource.com


More information about the term:
> Glossary www.taiko.com
> Glossary www.taikosource.com