The Denver Taiko is an ensemble of third, fourth, and fifth generation of Japanese Americans that was founded in 1970. This ensemble honors their cultural heritage through the performance art of Taiko. It is a community based organization committed to sharing and honoring Japanese drumming. It provides an engaging creative outlet for those that are interested in the art of Taiko.
Taiko’s exact history is uncertain, but they figure that the instruments came from India to Japan with the introduction of Buddhism. It was first used in battle to frighten and intimidate the enemy. It was also sued to coordinate movements and communicate commands with the deep, resonant drumbeats, which could be heard across the entire battlefield. It was also used by farmers to ward off insects and evil spirits.
When you hear a performance by the Denver Taiko, it is a propulsive and dynamic event. It is a combination of improvisational solos and structured rhythms that roll together like thunder to stir your soul.
Their cast of fourteen ranges from energetic teens to accomplished veterans. The early inspiration for the Denver Taiko came from a workshop that was conducted in Denver by Sensei Tanaka, who is considered to be the father of Taiko by the players in America.
In 1980, the Junior Denver Taiko Group was formed. The purpose of this group was to pass on this Japanese tradition to the younger generations. Since 1980, the group has grown to over 30 members. Many of these members join the adult group after training. The ages of the members of the junior group range from 8 to 18. In this group there are three levels, practicing every Sunday.
The Denver Taiko group does 25-30 performances a year. If you are over 18 years of age, it may be hard to become a new member. This is due in part to the fact that this is a self-taught group and the number of performances they have each year. Most of their performances last from 20-45 minutes, and if the audience desires, they offer audience participation.
It has become known for their own unique performance personality and style. They are an important part of Colorado and the West’s cultural landscape. The Denver Taiko performs at concerts, diversity celebrations, and festivals throughout the region. The group received the Mayor’s annual award for Excellence in the Arts in 2001 by Denver’s Mayor Wellington Webb.
The Japanese Consulate, in 2003, sponsored a 3-week workshop for the Denver Taiko group in Denver. The workshop was conducted by the infamous Taiko master, Sensei Yoichi Watanabe from Tokyo, Japan.
If you are visiting Denver, make sure you check to see when their next performance will be. It will be an experience that you will not soon forget.