Sunday, February 15, 2009

Taiko Drumming at the ELC

This past Wednesday was a national holiday in Japan, National Foundation Day. Chris and Michael had school, but Sam's school had the day off with a special presentation of taiko drumming for the children.

I had never seen taiko drumming before. I knew that it was supposed to be quite an active and athletic performance, but that's all I knew. There is a troupe of taiko drummers that periodically visit the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, but I have never been motivated to go - frankly, it looked very serious and dull.

What we saw at the ELC was anything but serious and dull. It was joyful, entertaining, funny, and exciting. The taiko drummer troupe used large drums, smaller drums, handheld bells and rhythm instruments, plus many different types of flutes and recorders. The children loved it!

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There were traditional songs about springtime, comic interludes with the players portraying animals, and foot tapping songs driven by enthusiastic and energetic drumming. After the performance, the players were very generous and allowed the children to drum on the largest drum they brought.  They were a very child friendly group, and a good introduction for those of us who had never seen taiko drumming before. The players gave the name of each instrument and demonstrated each one, which really helped us understand everything more fully.

If I had to compare taiko to anything I had seen before, I think I would say it was most like traditional commedia dell'arte, with the combination of storytelling and music. My friend Sheila compared it to Native American musical performances - and I can see that, too. 

Sam commented that he could feel the drumming in his chest. I think his favorite part of the day was the playtime with Aidan at our apartment afterward!

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