Japanese Taiko Drumming Slated to Perform at WCU’s Fine and Performing Arts Center

By Morgan Carver

Staff Writer

On Thursday, September 18, 2008 Western Carolina will be hosting a Japanese drumming ensemble at the Fine and Performing Arts Center. It will begin at 7:30 and the tickets are $5 dollars for students and $20 dollars for the public. Fushu Daiko will be performing to expand WCU’s range of ideas that they can take back with them to the classroom, giving students a window into traditional Japanese culture. Coming from South Florida Fushu Daiko does performances all around. They hold events such as Taiko drum lessons, workshops, festivals, and concerts.

Taiko drums have been around for over 1400 years in Japan. The style of Taiko drumming started becoming popular in America in the 1950s. The word “Taiko” means “fat drum”, however there are many different shapes and sizes of Taiko drums. The Taiko drum dates back to as far as the sixth or seventh century from a clay figure of a man playing the drums. The cultural influences on this drum are the Korean and the Chinese drums, however the Taiko has its own distinct culture from Japan.

The Taiko drum had other purposes other than entertaining a crowd: during the 1500’s the Taiko was used in battles to ward away enemies and intimidate them. The Taiko drum was also used for court music, in a refined setting with the Gagaku music, known as court music, beautiful and elegant. As this list of the uses of the Taiko drum goes on, this one cannot be left out: it was also used as a signal in villages. The sound of the drum would send out warnings to the people that there was a hunter, or a bad storm coming in. These signals became such a necessity in the villagers’ every day lives, that they started to associate the Taiko drums with Gods. Once this belief was established, they would only allow holy men to beat the Taiko drum. Special occasions with special permission from a priest were the only times the drum was allowed to be played.

Modernization has taken its course on the Taiko drum. It is now used in ensembles and is known as something that represents the post war time period. Taiko drumming eventually found its way to North America, where it started all kinds of Taiko drumming bands and ensemble groups. As this beautiful music entered North America, it eventually spread all over the continent, and now it has made its way to Western North Carolina, where Cullowhee’s locals and students will get to enjoy a cultural event.