Arts & Culture / Mosaic / Music / April 1, 2009

Performance is a different type of experience

The group Isshin Taiko will feature one of Japan’s oldest instruments, the Taiko drum, in a traditional Japanese music performance at Knox. Based in Chicago, the group will be performing at Knox on April 3 at 7 p.m. in Harbach Theatre. Isshin Daiko made each of their drums by hand using traditional materials, which include wood and cow skin.

“Taiko is used in a lot of traditional Japanese festivals,” said junior Yumi Kusunoki, co-president of the Japanese Club. “It is a very exotic sound for American listeners.”

During Taiko performances, drums are the only instrument used and the pieces played are not metered, which creates a unique listening experience. The drums are rather large and often all playing at once.

“The sound is so big, and it goes straight to the stomach,” said Kusunoki.

Both Kusunoki and junior Akina Nagata, co-event planner of Japanese Club, said they have seen Taiko drum performances during festivals in Japan. In addition to those festivals, Taiko drumming is also traditionally performed before competitions and when going into battle as encouragement for the fighters.

Listening to a Taiko drum performance creates different experiences for different people.

“I always have a picture of Japanese war in my mind,” said Kusunoki.

Other people, Nagata said, feel the drumming as a heartbeat.

“Some people say it reminds them of being an infant next to their mother’s heart,” said Nagata.

During performances such as this one, Kusunoki said that the drumming is traditionally a signal for the audience that a ghost, or imaginary creator, will come and dance.

After the performance, audience members will be invited to stay for a workshop about Taiko drumming and encouraged to try it out for themselves.

In addition to Isshin Daiko’s performance, Nagata will also be performing a piece of traditional Japanese Noh Theater before the group takes the stage.

“It’s an old dance sequence that originated in Japan. It tells a story,” said Nagata. “The music will tell the story and I will present it with my body.”

The piece, entitled “Hagoromo,” is a traditional fairytale.

The Isshin Taiko performance is sponsored by Japanese Club, the Asian Studies Department, the Music Department, the Global Studies department and the Center for Intercultural Life.

“Since last year I really wanted to bring a drum group to perform because that would be really cool,” said Kusunoki. “I am so excited.”

Laura Miller


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