Daiko drumming gives Hart House a shake

First published in The Varsity on Nov 2, 1989, page 11

Varsity Staff Writer

Toronto Suwa Daiko
Hart House
October 26lh

The mythology of feudal Japan is replete with tales of deities drawn forth by the magical cadence of the taiko drums, instruments whose primal beats originally served to mark the boundaries between villages.

Today, taiko drumming is an extremely popular ethnic musical form, with Kodo, Demon Drummers of Sado consistently playing to sell-out crowds world-wide.

Enter the Toronto Suwa Daiko, part time taiko drummers embodying the rural originators of the music. Where Kodo is experimental, radical, and alarming, the Suwa Daiko is traditional, Shinto-oriented and theatrical.

Blending elements of dance, kabuki theatre and, most importantly, flute and drum music, the Toronto Suwa Daiko played to a packed enthusiastic audience at Hart House last week. Eight pieces, several interweaving Japanese with Western rhythms, told stories from Japan’s history, just as they would have been told by farmers of the fourteenth century. Musical tales of religion, war, and ceremony were beat out, passionately detailed by the strained sweaty faces of the young drummers.

Taiko drumming is not for the faint of heart nor frail of body, in terms of both musicians and audience. The fitness level required to play the drums is considerable, as are the levels of excitement to which the listener is drawn.

According to Suwa Daiko Artistic Director Gary Nagata, to join the group, one must first undertake a ten week training programme, then audition. Upon acceptance, the novice is required to dedicate at least three years to playing with the group. Apparently, the strict maintenance of certain traditions is not a factor, since many female and non-Asian faces are scattered throughout their entourage.

The Toronto Suwa Daiko perform several times throughout the year at various locations in the Toronto area. Taiko drumming is an experience not to be missed. It is an Oriental musical form that is extremely accessible to those of us unaccustomed to eastern ways.

The concert was arranged through the efforts of the Hart House Music Committee, to whom we have all paid fees. On November 19, the Committee presents Catherine French. Free tickets become available on the 5th. For information on how to become an active member of the Committee, contact Andrew Lo at 733-2677.