Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Learning taiko

I have been taking taiko lessons with Arashi Daiko since September.

True, taiko is, before anything else, drum playing. But it is so much more than that. It is profoundly intertwined with Japanese cultural under- and overtones; while at the same time being far less rigid than you would expect from an art emanating from Japan.

There is no right way of playing taiko (there might be wrong ways, though!). This might be unsettling for a beginner; having a different teacher every few weeks sometimes teaching contradicting techniques. But it is also a  very efficient way of growing, very fast.

What is taiko? Think of it like a martial art. A way of concentrating all the energy of the universe in your center, then channeling it through your arm, into the tip of the bachi, into a drum. And the drum answers you.

This feeling is not quite attainable with cheap practice drums. But on a real taiko, it is an exchange of energy; you give energy to the drum; the drum gives back energy... You give energy to a room full of people; they surround you with pure energy.

I am slowly learning to get blisters on my left hand. This means I am slowly learning to use it to do more than follow my right, as an independent entity. This is a great mental challenge.

I have learnt what kiai means. Shouting to gather energy seems pointless when you're not doing it. When you've been playing continuously for 20 minutes and you're exhausted and you feel yourself slowing down, shouting out releases energy and suddenly, the arms start moving again. And somebody hears you and answers, and you move together.

Taiko is becoming the reason why I stand tall and feel strong. If I can play the o-daiko, then there is nothing to fear in the world. I have never done anything that made me feel this confident. 

Not because I am a good taiko player, but because it makes me grow, and learn about myself and others, and share an unshielded part of myself. When you're playing taiko, you have to give it all. There is no other way.


  1. I like the way you talk about it... very spiritual, like a soul-searching experience. Ça doit être terriblement gratifiant, amusant, apaisant, épuisant...

  2. Oui, tu as raison, c'est un peu de tout ça à la fois! (Et j'ai hâte en maudit d'avoir de la corne sur les mains!)