Some answers to frequently asked questions:Why is your group called Hinode Taiko?
Hinode Taiko (pronounced “HEENODAY TYKO”) means “Rising Sun Drums”in Japanese. It refers less to Japan’s traditional identity as “The Land of the Rising Sun” than to our famous Canadian prairie sunrises – which Hinode Taiko members all enjoy in the depths of winter (because of our Saturday early morning practices). Also, as one of the first taiko groups in Canada, Hinode was part of the dawn of taiko as a performing art in Canadian culture.
Hinode Taiko was formed in 1982 after a workshop sponsored by the Manitoba Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association. Hinode Taiko was the second taiko group in Canada east of the Rocky Mountains. For more about Hinode Taiko, see our History page
Taiko (drums) were an integral part of village life in ancient Japan, were used in entertainment for the ruling class, and have long played a role in the rituals of Japan’s two predominant religions, Shinto and Buddhism. However, group taiko playing as a performing art actually developed in Japan as recently as the 1950s, with the post-war revival of national pride and interest in traditional folk arts.
Modern taiko offers a unique alchemy of rhythm, sound textures, choreography,emotional intensity and athleticism that distinguishes it from all other performing arts such as ballet, tap, synchronised swimming, orchestral music… and (dare we say it?) even hockey. Nothing you have read or seen can convey the sensation of a live taiko performance. You have to feel it to understand what all the excitement is about.
It’s hard to say who’s “best” in a country with literally thousands of taiko groups, many of which preserve unique repertoire or traditions that arehundreds of years old. There are about two dozen “professional” taiko ensembles in Japan today (amongst them Osuwa Daiko, Oedo Sukeroku Daiko, Ondekoza, Hono Daiko and Matsuri Shu).
However, many would say that the premier taiko ensemble in the world is KODO, a group based in a rigorous communal lifestyle on Sado Island off the northern coast of Japan. Would-be KODO performers must pass a gruelling apprenticeship, audition and interview to be accepted into the ensemble – few, if any, applicants each year measure up. KODO drummers rehearse six days a week and tour 8 months per year.
Visit KODO’s website
Taiko in North America dates from 1968. There are now roughly 150 taiko groups on this continent (compared to over 5,000 groups in Japan). Over half of North America’s taiko groups are located in California, many of them off shoots of Seiichi Tanaka’s San Francisco Taiko Dojo. The SF Taiko Dojo style is strongly influenced by its founder’s martial-arts training as well as various styles of taiko in Japan. Kinnara Taiko of Los Angeles, a Buddhist taiko group that consciously chose not to have a sensei [master teacher], discovered and shared the innovation of making drums from wine barrels that made the growth of taiko in North America possible. (Read more about Buddhist taiko.) Together with San Jose Taiko, led by PJ and Roy Hirabayashi, these are very different and important influences in North American taiko.
Taiko music can be written in Western musical notation, but we usually learn pieces using traditional syllables (kuchishoka): Don, Dogo, Ka, Kara, Tsuku,etc. These syllables indicate specific rhythms, where the drum is struck (on the drum head or on the rim), how hard, and by which hand; they must be memorized along with the movements of the piece. Hence the expression, “if you can say it, you can play it.”
Hinode Taiko performing group members practice together year-round, an average of twice a week for approximately seven hours. We also usually have a few weekend retreats or workshops each year devoted to drumming skills.
About half of our pieces are arrangements of traditional rhythms passed on to us by our sensei; the rest are original compositions by Hinode Taiko members.
Most of our drums are made by us, using wine or whisky barrels and locally-sourced cowhide. Some of our smaller drums have been purchased over the years from leading taiko makers in Japan (Asano Taiko) and the U.S. (Mark Miyoshi).
– these are drums with drumheads sewn to rims that can be tightened or loosened, thereby raising or lowering the pitch of the drum. Relatively lighter in weight and construction than nagado-daiko (see below).
Shime (or shime-daiko) – small drum with characteristic high pitch caused by tightening the drumheads with ropes or bolts. Player may stand or be seated on the ground while playing, depending on the height of the drumstand (dai).
Medium-sized okedo may be played “Eitetsu-style” (on a drumstand, named for the celebrated drummer Eitetsu Hayashi who pioneered this approach); or
carried on a shoulder strap while being played (katsugi okedo = “slung
okedo”). A really large okedo may be placed horizontally on a tall stand and
played by two drummers at the same time, one at each drumhead.
Nagado-daiko – these are drums with drumheads nailed directly to a drumshell longer than it is wide. In Japan, nagado-daiko are made of hollowed-out logs of expensive zelkova wood; in North America, they are usually made from oak barrel staves. Hinode Taiko features three sizes of nagado-daiko ranging in weight from 10 to 110 pounds:
Kodaiko – a drum less than 1 foot in diameter, sometimes called a “sumo”
from its use at sumo tournaments;
Chudaiko (also called wadaiko, miya-daiko, chodaiko, or “josuke“) – medium-sized, the core instrument of most taiko performances; and Odaiko – the largest of all taiko, whose sound is often likened to rolling thunder. Often played by two drummers (one at each drumhead).
Uchiwa-daiko – a single-headed drum shaped like a fan, usually played with one bachi (drumstick). Originally used to accompany Nichiren Buddhist
The “yelling” is called kakegoe or kiai. Sometimes Japanese words/phrases are used, and sometimes pure vocalizing, but the purpose is always to energize the drummers and accent the music.
You’re not the first person to ask! Check out the details on how to book HT and to discuss fees and performance availability.
If there’s a taiko group in your area, they may offer classes or workshops open to the public. You can check this website regularly for news of upcoming Hinode Taiko workshops. Our workshops are usually one-day-only events
– not continuing classes – and they fill up quickly, so we recommend registering promptly.
Details of upcoming Hinode Taiko workshops can be found in the workshops and classes section.
Nowadays, it takes about 2 years for who qualifies to get accepted into the performing group of Hinode Taiko.
In addition to “experience taiko” workshops, Hinode Taiko occasionally holds recruiting workshops. These are followed by a course of weekly beginner’s taiko classes lasting about 6 to 8 months. On completing the course, selected beginners may be invited to become Hinode Taiko apprentices. Apprentices are expected to help with equipment upkeep, performance preparation and fundraising efforts, as well as hone their drumming skills at twice-weekly practices. At the end of the apprenticeship period (about 10 months), apprentices audition before Hinode’s members, who then evaluate each candidate.
Progressive training and intervals allow time to develop the physical conditioning needed to perform taiko; and give current members the opportunity to assess potential new members’ attitude and commitment as well as ability. We respect sincere effort, but cannot accept every apprentice into the performing group.
Hinode Taiko drummers strive to incorporate three values into every drumstroke: ergonomic efficiency (“feel good”); appropriate sonority (“sound good”); and appropriate gesture & affect (“look good”). Even the most complex pieces are choreographed with these values in mind.
Other core concepts:
Kata – means “form” or “shape”. Kata refers to the stance and movements used
in a particular piece, or by a particular group. It’s more than “eye candy”.
Despite (or perhaps because of) our distance from other taiko groups, Hinode
Taiko has absorbed influences from many sources, including most of the
groups listed above. From this broad exposure and with Kodo’s encouragement,
Hinode Taiko has evolved a distinct visual style, enriched by synthesizing
all that we have learned, rather than adhering to just one “school”.
Ki – means “energy”, “vitality” and the drummer’s commitment to a “whole body” experience. Evidence of ki can be found in facial expression, kiai (powerful yells to encourage self and others), the energy generated by a drummer when playing, the focus a drummer carries into performance, and whether the energy flowing from drummer to drummer draws the listener into the music. Hinode Taiko drummers are responsible for following individual fitness regimes and the personal discipline needed to develop and sustain ki in performance.
Kumi-daiko – “team” or “group” taiko. For Hinode Taiko members, taiko is above all a group activity, and group well-being is paramount. To sound as “one drum” is the goal; it requires constant dedication to knowing oneself and others through group effort. Drumming skill by itself is not enough.
In addition to intensive practice on instruments, Hinode Taiko expects and values teamwork both physical (tying shime, cleaning floors, making drums,
community volunteering) and emotional (sharing food, fellowship in good and
bad times, memories, hopes, and mutual respect). Members often joke about
being “one big [dysfunctional] family”, but we believe that a sense of belonging together is one of our greatest strengths as a performing
Get on our e-mail list and you’ll be notified of upcoming events (such as concerts and workshops) open to the public, BEFORE they are posted on this website. If you want even more involvement, join the Friends of Hinode Taiko and become part of the circle of taiko fans and supporters who are really in the know.
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