by Ernest Kearney  — The origins of Taiko drumming in Japan is lost in that vast attic called history, but the conservative scholars will tell you that it appeared in Japan, between the 5th and 6th centuries C.E., imported from either China or Korea.

Myself, I’ll take the mythological tale, which relates how Susanoo, god of the summer storm, laid waste to his sister Amaterasu’s rice fields, slaughtered one of her hand maidens then threw a flayed horse at her.

Amaterasu became enraged —who can blame her— and in the midst of her grief sealed herself inside a cave.

As Amaterasu was the sun goddess, this plunged the world into continual darkness.   Soon, the crops were dying and both mankind and the gods were on the verge of starving to death; but no one could entice her to return to the world.

Finally, one of the elder goddesses, Ame-no-Uzume, had had enough.

Ame-no-Uzume emptied out a sake barrel, climbed on top of it and began dancing frantically, tearing off her clothing as her feet stomped out a furious beat.

Despite being on the verge of starvation, the gods were soon bent over with laughter.

Amaterasu, curious as to what was so damn funny, emerged from the cave.

Thus, was the world saved and Taiko drumming born.

Soon Taiko’s fierce relentless rhythms would be found in nearly all of Japan’s religious pageants and military undertakings.

Taiko remained little known outside of Japan until after the war.

In the late ‘60s Minister Masao Kodani, of the Senshin Buddhist Temple in downtown Los Angeles, began the Kinnara Taiko group to train those in the art, and today Taiko is a worldwide phenomenon with devotees found in such far-flung lands as Brazil and Ireland.

TAO, which just played two nights at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, is a Japanese ensemble founded in 1993 by Ikuo Fujitaka.

Among Taiko aficionados, Fujitaka’s training methods were legend with practice sessions lasting seventeen hours with periodic breaks for tea and bean cakes, calisthenics and the occasional ten-mile run.

While Fujitaka’s training methods have relaxed some over the years, his troupe still reflects the muscular dynamics of that heritage in this touring production of Drum Heart and, make no mistake, his performers need it for they are dancing with thunder.

Their presentation features the classic drums of Taiko from the snare-drum-sized Shime-daiko to the large drum or Ō-daiko resembling a wine casket in size.

Fifteen drummers form two lines across the stage and hammer their instruments until a percussive cataract comes pouring forth whose intoxication is all but impossible to describe, except to say you have no doubt it would coax a pissed-off sun-goddess from out of a cave.

The group’s Los Angeles tour dates recently closed for the year, but the good news is they will be returning.

However, if you join their fan club at the site below, you’ll receive their upcoming tour dates and be ready for their next appearance.

Their remaining 2018 dates are in Oregon and Northern California. To learn more click go to

♦   ♦   ♦


Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter @theTVolution

Please Subscribe to our Newsletter

(Box on the Left Rail)
We Thank You for Supporting the Voices of TheTVolution

Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at and Follow him on Facebook.

No comments


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.