Thursday, August 15, 2019

Dynamic Taiko

8/11/19 San Francisco Taiko Dojo

Last weekend I was in Portland for a family event, which included attendance at a fantastic taiko concert that was part of Taiko Jam, a biannual conference. Included in the performance were San Francisco Taiko Dojo, Kinnara Taiko, Kenny Endo and Taiko Center of the Pacific, and a special performance by Kodo distinguished member Chieko Kojima. These performers are among the best of the best, and it was a privilege to see them.

Kinnara Taiko
Some of the most unusual and dynamic performances combined traditional taiko with innovative, contemporary elements and costumes. While the drummers and other percussionists are primarily musicians, almost all performers also seem to be gymnasts or acrobat artists in their movements, which are the most athletic of any musical performers Ive seen. Cartwheels and tumbles are part of the percussion! It’s thrilling to feel and hear the thundering and see the sheer strength and energy they demonstrate as they pound away with thick, heavy drumsticks as if they were slender reeds.
During brief interludes while the stage is being reset, actors provide humorous vignettes to keep the audience entertained. A Kinnara Taiko frog-like character is at right.
I had a ball trying to capture some of that energy and movement in my sketches. (I’d like to smugly note here that while photography and video of the concert were strictly prohibited, sketching was not. 😉)

These San Francisco Taiko Daijo drummers were
not really hitting each other...I just decided to focus
on their figures and not spend time
drawing the drums!
San Francisco Taiko Daijo

Taiko Center of the Pacific

Chieko Kojima, in kimono, first danced improvisationally and eventually pounded on the large drum as a finale. To keep her long sleeves out of the way while drumming, she incorporated a dramatic scarf tying around her sleeves as part of the dance.

This performance by Taiko Center of the Pacific included traditional shamisen and Polynesian dance.

Taiko Center of the Pacific


  1. These sketches really capture the energy of the performers. I love the one sketch with the touch of color. It made me smile.

    1. Thank you, Joan! The only reason I had time to put in that color was because they took a break right after that session! The rest of the concert was a blur of music and movement -- no time for color!


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