Q: We just saw you at our school
and you talked about the 4 principles of San Jose Taiko. What
are they again?
A: The 4 principles of San Jose Taiko are what we as taiko players
think about when we are teaching or learning our art form. They
Technique: If you play any musical instrument you know that
musical technique is the "how to's" of playing your
instrument. For us it's things like the wrist snap to get the
proper sound of the drum, how fast or slow to play, how loud or
soft we play. It also includes the way we learn our music: DON
- loud sound struck in the center of the drumhead, DORO
- two loud sounds struck in the center of the drumhead, tsu
- quiet sound struck in the center of the drumhead, tsuku
- two quiet sounds struck in the center of the drumhead, ka
- sharp, clear sound struck lightly on the rim of the drum, kara
- two sharp, clear sounds struck lightly on the rim of the drum,
SU - rest.
In some Japanese martial arts (like karate and aikido) "kata"
refers to your form or stance or a set of movements that one learns
when taking that particular style. In taiko it's very similar:
it's the way we stand and hold our arms when we approach the taiko
as well as how we move when we play. It's kind of like our taiko
This is a word that you're probably already familiar with. When
we think of attitude as taiko players we think of respect. Respect
for each other as players, respect for our teachers, respect for
the drum, and respect for the art form. We also have respect for
the things we don't know yet, so we have a term called "Beginner's
Mind". This is the idea that no matter how long you've been
doing something; whether it be 2 years or 52 years, there is always
something you can get better at. Having a Beginner's Mind means
every time we come to practice we're striving to improve and better
When we talk about "ki" we're talking
about energy or the life-force energy we believe flows through
all living things. From "ki" comes "kiai"
or those encouraging shouts you may hear us giving each other
while we play. "Kiai" serve many purposes:
they allow the performers to share energy or "ki"
with each other on stage and they allow the performers to share
and exchange energy with the audience. This is one of the reasons
taiko is so fun to see in person. Not only can you feel the vibrations
of the drum but you can also feel the energy or "ki"
from the taiko players!
What are those shoes you wear?
A: They're called "tabi" (tah-bee). They're
kind of like mittens for our feet. In Japan, carpenters used to
wear tabi while they worked on roofs of houses. When they were
finished with work they would put on their slippers while still
wearing their tabi and walk home. Tabi
are worn in martial arts and traditional dance. For taiko we have
rubber soles on the bottom so we don't slip around when we play.
Here is a diagram & explanation of our costume:
Hachimaki (hah-chee-mah-kee) - a rectangular piece
of cloth that is twisted to make a headband. This is used to keep
the sweat out of the performers eyes.
Bachi (bah-chee) - these are a taiko player's drumsticks.
In many Japanese religions the bachi are believed to be the links
between the heavens, the player, and the sound of the drum. Because
of this special relationship the taiko performers try to take
really good care of their bachi.
Happi (hap-pee) - This happi or happi coat is patterned
after those worn in the Japanese festivals or matsuri (ma-tsoo-ree).
They come in a variety of styles and colors.
Obi (oh-bee) - This is a long piece of fabric that
wraps around the performer many times and is tied off at the end.
It serves as a belt to keep the happi from coming undone.
Tabi (tah-bee) - See explanation above.
How much do the drums cost?
A: The medium-sized drums we play with cost about $5000 dollars.
Many North American taiko groups like ours make our taiko from
wine barrels which are treated and then made into drums. This
is why you see slats of wood on the sides. In Japan many taiko
are made from whole pieces of wood that are hallowed out from
a tree trunk. This makes them much more expensive to make (and
ship!). A medium-sized drum from Japan can cost around $10,000.
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Q: The groups'
name is "San Jose Taiko". Why?
A: Simple. We are from San Jose, California. This is a city in
Northern California and the 10th largest city in the U.S.
Where can I learn how to play taiko?
If you are 9-14 years old, you can sign up for Summer
Taiko at Stanford, which is a week-long summer camp where
you get to play taiko and learn all about it. We also offer
classes through our Junior
Taiko Program which runs January through June at the San Jose
Taiko studio for 8-18 year olds.
More questions? Feel
free to contact us.