Thursday, August 29, 2013

Question Everything: Kumidaiko

Kumidaiko is the common term for ensemble taiko drummingTaiko by itself was used in festivals or ceremonies or sound effects, but traditionally it was a solo instrument until around the 1960’s.  There's a lot more to it, but that's the gist of it.  Most taiko players will know this much, at least.

When we play taiko in a group, we try to sound like one drum, precise and together (assuming you’re all playing the same pattern, of course).  This is the essence of kumidaiko.  However, if you’re not listening to yourself, you may be causing the ensemble to NOT sound together.  So you should listen to yourself, right?  But if you focus too much on what your output is, then you can go in the other direction and lose the ensemble and still be off!

When we solo, the group supports us.  It’s still kumidaiko.  However if you stick out amongst the other soloists (stylistic differences, lack of skill, getting carried away, etc.), then should the group still support you?  Most people would say yes.  But is it still kumidaiko when one person is so apart from the rest?  Or is it something else?

Most of us have seen (and some even played) an odaiko solo in practice or performance.  If it’s just one person on a drum, that’s not kumidaiko – it can’t be, by definition.  But does kumidaiko only refer to the individual piece, or something larger?  And how many people playing at once make an “ensemble"?  Two?  Three?  Seven?

I know this is a lot of semantics for some people, but looking closer at the terms we use without a second thought can tell us a lot about how we think!

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