home

shumei  taiko

myth & history

the musicians

audio / video

events

articles

drums

glossary

photos


Ethos and History

In ancient Japan, the beat of a drum or “taiko” accompanied petitions to God. Today, the ceremony lives on and is called "Mikotonori," in which the sound of drumming bridges the divide between the human and the divine. The thunder of taiko is pure. It cleanses both the senses and the surroundings of those who pray. Mikotonori is a prayer in which the hopes and thankfulness of those participating rise straight to God. Such occasions of transcendence are known as " kanno doko ," moments in which the spiritual and physical worlds speak to each other and are entwined with divine light. It was at such a moment that the Shumei Taiko Ensemble was born.

 

The creation of the Ensemble was set in motion by the Shumei organization's dynamic second president, Sokichi Koyama, when he proposed a "One Hundred Drums Celebration" to commemorate the birth of Shumei's founder, Mokichi Okada . The event was held at Shumei's International headquarters at Misono in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, on December 23, 1982. On that winter day, the chilly stillness of the Shigaraki Mountains was broken by the sharp reverberation of one hundred drums.

 

A year later, young drummers played at the celebration marking the completion of Meishusama Hall in Misono. The performance was so moving that President Koyama arranged to have a few of Shumei's drummers, including the Ensemble's first leader Koji Nakamura, join Japan's foremost taiko group, Ondekoza. Over the next two years, the skills of Shumei's first drummers were finely honed.

 

President Koyama understood that taiko music could transcend not only the barriers between the human and divine but also those borders that separate races and cultures. He believed that taiko music could further world peace and universal well-being. And it is his great vision of concord and harmony that has sustained the Shumei Taiko Ensemble ever since.

 

With Sokichi Koyama's sudden death in 1984, Koji Nakamura left Ondekoza and returned to Misono with two other drummers. The Shumei Ensemble's beginnings were unassuming, just three musicians and three small drums. However, with perseverance, step by step, the Ensemble grew.

 

With Ondekoza's stylistic influence as a backdrop, the Shumei Ensemble struggled to explore its own musical territories. Finally, under the musical direction of Meisho Tosha, foremost master of the Japanese bamboo flute and the Shumei Ensemble's Music Director and Resident Composer, the Ensemble found its own voice. New music was created, a distinctive performance style evolved, and the Ensemble's signature balance of drums and flutes was perfected. It was under Mr. Tosha that the group came to life on its own terms.

 

Since its founding, the Shumei Taiko Ensemble has come to occupy an eminent place in the world of the performing arts. Not only acclaimed for its mastery of traditional technique, the Ensemble is also lauded for engendering a pure, strong, and dynamic form of music that is both modern and original.

 

Today, the Shumei Taiko Ensemble continues to unite people of all beliefs, nations, and languages in a grand vision of love and harmony. The Ensemble began in a moment of kanno doko, in which the sound of drums accompanied prayers to heaven. Its music can be understood as a form of prayer, a prayer for world peace and friendship among all people of the earth.