29 June 2016


Have you ever found yourself in World Showcase and suddenly heard deep percussion sounds calling to you in the distance? Or better yet, felt those same beats as you were wandering around Japan? Then you know the power of Matsuriza’s performances, but you may not know the history and mythology behind the music. If you haven’t taken in a show of Matsuriza, then perhaps a little more knowledge will move it to the top of your must do list.

The drums utilized by the Matsuriza ensemble are known as taiko. It is believed that they came into creation in the late 500s AD. Japense musicians had traveled to Korea and took up another drum, the kakko. Their studies and desire to bring a similar instrument to Japan led to the creation of the taiko. The drums can be a number of different sizes, each with a unique name, but the actual construction of a single drum barrel and skin can take up to several years to craft.

The drums have found multiple lives throughout time. During times of war, the taiko was utilized to set marching paces, make announcements, and even as a form of troop motivation. The have also been used in more traditional settings, such as in musical quartets, religious ceremonies, and to set the rhythm for noh theater performances.

The folklore of how the taiko came to be, however, is extremely fascinating. According to the stories, the goddess of the sun, Amaterasu, became angered by her brother for destroying her rice fields. In her fury she inadvertently killed one of her attendants and then sealed herself away inside a mountain cave known as Ada-no-Iwato. This meant that the sun was hidden from the world for a long period of time. While many tried to coax her from the cave, it was the elder goddess of dawn, mirth, and revelry, Ame-no-Uzume who was able to succeed. She lured Amaterasu from the cave by using an empty sake barrel as a drum and dancing on top of hit. According to the Nihon Shoki, this is how taiko music came into being.

The drums utilized by Matsuriza are very large, and it takes great strength and skill to keep up the frenetic pace required to create the wonderful percussion music. You can feel the music in your chest and it is an experience that is not to be missed. I hope, having a bit more knowledge about how the taiko drums and music came to be, that you will seek out the ensemble who play at the base of Japan's pagoda and give a listen to Matsuriza. I guarantee they will amaze!

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