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Percussions around the world – The Taïko

Would you like to discover percussion around the world? Since it is currently impossible to travel, let’s take a trip around the world together in our series of blog posts!

As a percussion instrument, the drum set comes from a long heritage of membranophones and idiophones, each with its own characteristics and particularities.

Of this range of instruments, drummers mainly use drums in the form of a barrel (a membrane stretched over a resonance box) but there are a myriad of others around the world, some much more exotic than others.

Here is a brief overview of drums around the world, including drums played by stick, hand or finger clapping, and frame drums.

The Taïko

Origin country : Japan

What is it?

Very famous, the taiko (太鼓), the “big drum”

in Japanese, is mostly known for being a huge drum making deep sounds.

There are several sizes, such as the shime daiko or tsukeshime no daiko (締め太鼓), which is a smaller taiko, about the size of a snare drum.


A taiko in the front on the picture, daiko are in the background.

It is a membranophone drum, meaning that the sound is produced by striking a membrane stretched over a resonance box. This instrument is played with sticks (bachi) and can be used for performances that are focused only on the instrument, taiko bands exist, or in support of another form of performance (noh theater, for example).

What is its history?

It seems that the taiko, which can be inspired by a Chinese or Korean instrument, has been used in Japan since the sixth century for communication (military, for example), festivals or rituals.

As a “rhythm giver,” the taiko is also traditionally used for traditional theatrical performances (kabuki, noh and gagaku), where the instrument acts as a guide for body movements in dance. The same is true for religious performances!

How does it work and what sound does it play?

Musician or not, you have certainly already heard the sound of the taiko.

Yes, you have, when you sit comfortably to watch a movie in front of your favorite streaming service…

And yes! The most famous sound of the taiko is probably the “tou-doum!” characteristic of a certain well-known video streaming service, represented by a big red N…

But the sound of the instrument is much more diverse, as can be discovered in this clip where several types of taiko are used by a band.

A very organic sound can be extracted from taiko, powerful and deep. We quickly understand why it is used to give rhythm!
We can also see that performance in taiko, as with any percussion, requires intense body work. Moreover, one can speak of the “way” of taiko as one would speak of a martial art.

Do we still use it today?

In addition to Japanese bands, traditional or not, who still use taiko as in the video above, the instrument is also an integral part of Japanese music in the broadest meaning of the word.

Anyone who has ever seen a film by Akira Kurosawa is used to the heavy and dramatic percussions preceding a battle…

The taiko is therefore not only a traditional instrument and used only out of nostalgia, it is part of today’s Japanese culture and has spilled over into our Western society.

If you wish to continue your journey around the world and discover new instruments from different parts of the globe, then stay tuned on our Redison blog.

We look forward to seeing you soon on our blog!

Until then, keep on drumming!

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