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Taiko is translated into drum into English.  It is, to me, an integral part of summer festivals in Japan.  In fact, the sound is akin to different weather patterns from the light, constant rain or even the thunder.  Taiko can also be accompanied by several instruments.  One (I almost want to say bell, but that is the wrong word) is the kane.  This is where, you, my reader should know something about my Japanese.  I rarely translate.  Translation does not do justice to the words and the emotions of the original language.  As a quick summation, I look at translation how the “average Joe” looks at idioms.  S/he says that translation of idioms does not make sense, and I think so with all words in going from one to the next.  It turns out, when I look up the word kane the translation is “a kind of bell.”  Go figure:)  Maybe I could get a job for the United Nations…<–no, not really a dream of mine.

Anywho, going back to taiko and kane.  Last summer I had the unique opportunity to play taiko in a parade in Kuwana.  There were many teams playing loudly the taiko and kane.  To me, the average tourist would feel that the playing was noisy.  I felt the complete opposite.  I felt at peace.  The rhythms created were like my heartbeat.  The kane was, to use the word “bell,” keeping me alive and with a vigor, even though it was my first time playing this parade, and I was making countless mistakes, it was as if there was a communication between me and the audience.  The medium was a drum, but the message was from god.  To quote a hymn, I felt, “it is well with my soul.”  At last my mind and heart were in complete communication.

In July 2011’s Trad Japan, the author of the article “Taiko Drums,” states, The sound of taiko Japan’s traditional drums, stirs both body and soul” (112).  “The tree to be felled is ritually purified with sake because all big trees are believed to have spirits dwelling in them” (117).  I like these two quotes because in Japan last summer I believe I had a religious epiphany that the sound of taiko is at first the sound of a semi (cicada) that has taken the voice of god from within the tree.  So, when I strike the drum, I am playing the voice of god and that there is communication between me and the audience, no matter if I make mistakes or not, as long as my heart and soul is in the moment, it will be a continuous conversation.


learning a rhythm




About charleswinstead

having lived in japan for 3.5 years i wish to "go back to the island" as often as i can. i lived from 1999-2003. i went back in 2007, then again in 2011. i am a full time teacher, so the best time to go for me is during the summer vacation. it works out well because i love the sensational feelings i get in japan during the summer...especially playing taiko and eating lots of ma-cha ice.

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