Taiko is a Japanese word meaning drum or drumming. Traditional drumming in Japan can be traced back to ancient times. Drums were used for festivals, rituals, and even for wars to encourage soldiers. There are many festival performances and folk art demonstrations using drums as well as singing, dancing, and other instruments such as the fue (bamboo flute) or the kane (cymbals). Taiko exists throughout Japan, and each district has developed its own unique rhythm and style.
Begun in the 1950s, the ensemble style of taiko performance is relatively new. It has become popular, particularly in the late 80’s. Today, more than 5,000 groups play taiko in Japan.
Some taiko groups are professional art organizations. Some of them are local recreational organizations, and still others are collegiate taiko groups organized by university students. There are also a lot of children’s taiko groups. Starting in 2003, elementary and middle schools in Japan began to teach taiko to children.
Taiko performance has also become popular in the United States and Canada. The first taiko groups started on the west coast around the late 60s. Now there are more than 150 taiko groups in North America. and the number is increasing every year.
The first taiko groups in the US were started mainly by Japanese Americans who were searching for a way to express their cultural identity. Now, many Japanese and Asian-Americans are involved in Taiko. However, taiko is not only for Japanese or Asians. It is open to anybody who shares its sound.
For more information about the history of taiko, you can check out Taiko Resource: Taiko Overview and History.