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Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students
Behind the Big Drums: Exploring Taiko
Since 1992 generations of Stanford students have heard, seen, and felt the power of taiko, big Japanese drums, at Admit Weekend, NSO, or at Baccalaureate. This seminar provides students with the opportunity to get behind the big drums, literally and academically. In fact, taiko is a relative newcomer to the American music scene. The contemporary ensemble drumming form, or kumidaiko, developed in Japan in the 1950s. The first North American taiko groups emerged from the Japanese American community shortly after and coincided with increased Asian American activism. In the intervening years, taiko has spread rapidly into other communities, most surprisingly to the UK, Europe, Australia, and South America. What drives the power of these drums? In this course, we explore the musical, cultural, historical, and political perspectives of taiko through readings and discussion, by playing the drums, workshopping with taiko masters, and meeting members of the taiko community. With North American taiko as the focal point, we learn about Japanese music and Japanese American history, and explore relations between performance, cultural expression, community, and identity.