"Drummers need to sense the sound in their bodies, because
the sounds we create reflect the energy of our lives."

The Power of Taiko

When we are weary of our daily life, we want to escape to nature. We want connection to something beyond ourselves. Nature helps us to feel that we are part of something collective; outside the limits of self. In our daily activities, we consciously work to be unique, and this process can be very alienating.

We walk through forest and mountains. With each step, we come closer to the fundamental simple rhythms of life. Our steps become more rhythmical and our heartbeat and breathing keep apace. We experience oneness with the grandeur that surrounds us, and a sense of solidity with each step on the path. We walk and walk in silence. With fatigue we feel that the center of our bodies drop down. Like slow trains on steep tracks we keep plodding forward.

Deep in the mountain we cross a creek. The sound of water is bright, and it makes our weary feeling a little lighter. Each creek we cross brings us closer to the solitude we seek. In quietude above the murmurs of the flowing water, the true essence of nature as evanescent, temporal and always changing touches us profoundly. We want to have stability in our lives, yet things keep changing.

We climb up a rocky cliff and hear sounds of a waterfall somewhere beyond. The water from the cascade seeps out of the pores of the cliff. We stand at the precipice and look up at the magnificent falls and take a deep breath as the water splashes over us.

Proper Taiko drumming approximates this awesome experience. The sound of Taiko is both fleeting and grounded in the same instant – the sound of mountains and streams.

Taiko is physical drumming. Creating an awesome and convincing sound requires physical training and absolute concentration. This process of physical involvement to create a powerful sound leads the drummer towards an awareness of universal rhythms. Whatever speed we drum, the basic down beat that goes with the drumming appears from nowhere. The rhythm is already there! If we free ourselves from the thoughts and tensions in our body, we can be in sync with this basic rhythm - a focused, subconscious rhythmic dialogue.

Drummers need to sense the sound in their bodies, because the sounds we create reflect the energy of our lives. The energy of life cannot go from one lifeless object to another – the drum has to be alive. We have to give the drum life; the drummer’s energy charges the drum. With genuine effort and constant practice in disciplining the Self, the drummer can attain better drumming skills to a point where the drummer is beyond conscious thought. This unconscious wakefulness is the way to make the drum come alive. Taiko is an organic art form; it requires human expression at the deepest level.

Just to memorize the beats of the music is not the same as connecting oneself to the fluid flow created by the proper focused use of one’s total energy! This energy expands exponentially when all drummers are riding the same powerful wave. When this happens a portal opens to universal primal rhythmic forces and we are swept away in the vortex of what feels to be a timeless moment.

I once had an experience on stage with my fellow drummers. I felt oneness with the drummers while we were performing, and everyone felt the same. We drummed for seven minutes. While I was drumming, I felt light as a feather, even though I was pounding the drum so hard. The strange thing was that I heard neither my sound nor the other drummers’, but I know I was playing the music in absolute sync with them. When we finished drumming, everyone said, “What was that?” I knew the performance had lasted for a while, but I felt it happened only within a second. Everyone felt that we had visited another world just like the children in the Chronicles of Narnia. I felt eternity and a single moment were co-existing, and the only difference was based on our fluctuating perceptions.

The intense discipline of Taiko has given me a glimpse of the indefinable. The rhythms of the drum weave a thread past conscious thought and bind together the seamless realities of psyche and cosmos.

Taiko drumming is physical and mental. The Eastern approach to understand the world does not separate the inner world from the outer world. When a drummer experiences the power within, that drummer is inside of the Taiko sound as well as outside of that sound. Actually, the sound does not even exist. It is an ineffable feeling, and this is the mystical experience that comes from the power of Taiko.

Power of Taiko © Ikuyo Conant, 2007