Taiko Traces the Rhythms of Japan's Past

Inspired by a class taught by former San Jose Taiko member Susan Hayase, students Ann Ishimaru (B.A. 1993, M.A. 1994) and Valerie Mih (class of 1992) obtained university funding to build taiko drums.  As a result, the Japanese drumming ensemble, Stanford Taiko, was born in the winter of 1992.  The original members received musical training from San Jose Taiko workshops while continuing to construct their own drums and sew their own costumes.

In Japanese, taiko denotes “drum,” but can also refer to the art of Japanese drumming, or kumi-daiko.  This centuries-old art form first emerged within a military context and was gradually appropriated by religious communities and the imperial court.  By the 1950s, taiko reconstituted itself as an ensemble art.

Stanford Taiko at the Great Wall of China, June 2008. Photograph by Toni Gautier


While Stanford Taiko preserves an ancient Japanese musical art, the students compose their own repertoire, thereby comingling tradition with innovation.  The group, which has attained a membership of twenty students, receives sponsorship from the Stanford Music Department.  Members perform regularly for Baccalaureate, Admit Weekend, New Student Orientation, and Parent’s Weekend.  In 1995, Stanford Taiko created the Collegiate Taiko Invitational, an annual event that unites taiko groups from across the country.  Stanford Taiko has enjoyed international exposure while touring Japan, Maui, and Thailand.

Featured image: Stanford Taiko in concert, spring 2010