Taiko club drums up Japanese culture appreciation

Taiko drumming is one of the cultural activities the St. Olaf community proudly practices. Traditionally, the term Taiko refers to any drum instrument in Japan. However, used outside Japan, it usually refers to the powerful drum performance that includes Japanese songs, graceful poses and rich culture. Historically, Taiko drumming was used during military, religious or theater events. The St. Olaf Taiko Drumming Club took this ancient art form and put it on display for their concert on Sunday, Nov. 16.

Taiko Drumming Club was established at St. Olaf College in 2004 with the help of Minneapolis-based taiko artist Iris Shiraishi. She still visits campus annually to hold workshops with the club. In gratitude to Shiraishi’s efforts, taiko drummer Olivia James ’13 wrote a Taiko drumming song entitled “Ayame,” which is Japanese for iris.

Other songs the Taiko Club performed were also written by members of the group, in addition to some more traditional Japanese songs. The club focuses on incorporating Japanese culture into an enjoyable music endeavor.

“I initially decided to join Taiko because I thought it would be fun. I was right, taiko is extremely fun. I guess you could say that banging on large drums with wooden sticks is a pretty amazing stress reliever,” Emily Gronli ’19 said.

The powerful songs were seamlessly performed in sync and were accompanied by occasional shouts of Japanese words and phrases.

“I also love the experience because it is somehow stress relieving. I think about stressful things and let go of them as I play those big drums,” Yu Zin Htoon ’17 said. “It is important for me not only as a socializing opportunity but also an activity that helps me balance psychologically.”

The Taiko Drumming Club’s concert beautifully showcased their skill and passion. In addition to their brilliant performance, which included synchronized moves, they also explored Japanese culture by engaging the audience using different activities such as a “Guess the Pokémon” game and storytelling by the members themselves. Needless to say, the evening proved very enjoyable for the captivated audience.