Japanese Taiko inspires music class, performance group on campus

Two music ensembles on campus perform a form of percussive music called Taiko.

Taiko is simply Japanese for drum, but in America the word is a catch-all referring to a type of Japanese ensemble drumming called Kumi-Daiko, said senior Billy Gruber, president of Kaze No Daichi.

Kaze No Daichi, which means windy plains in Japanese, is the Taiko club on campus, and was born out of a class called Hayabusa.

Hayabusa, which means falcon, was started in 2006 by Paul Yoon, a professor of ethnomusicology who taught at the University at the time and was a professional Taiko player.

“It was started as just kind of a fun thing,” said Allison Merrill, instructor of the class.

By 2008, the club had developed into a for-credit course.

Gruber said that Yoon built the class from the ground up and even had to build his own drums.

“When [Yoon] came here and asked to start a Taiko ensemble, he got funding and bought wine barrels and skins,” said Gruber. “All our drums are home made.”

In the Hayabusa class, students are able to practice and perform Kumi-Daiko music, as well as learn about the history of the genre and its societal aspects.

Hayabusa student Jenn Doyle first saw Taiko drumming when her high school marching band visited Disney world.

“When we went to the EPCOT portion, we happened to go to the Japanese portion of the park and we saw Taiko players there,” said Doyle. “Then me and my friend found out there was a Taiko group on campus here. When we graduated high-school, we came here and joined up.”

Both ensembles perform at the College of Musical Arts’ “World Percussion Night,” which is where senior Corey Wells first saw Taiko drumming.

“It’s incredibly powerful and that specifically is what drew me,” said Wells. “That feeling of being both graceful and smooth and also strength.”

It was this feeling of power with the music that may have inspired the club Kaze No Daichi to be formed.

“Paul Yoon started Hayabusa, then a few years later a few students challenged themselves to be a more advanced musical group, which is where you get Kaze No Daichi,” said Gruber.

Kaze No Daichi is the performance group, though both have played outside gigs.

Hayabusa has played at the Hilton in Perrysburg and for the local Kiwanis Club, while Kaze No Daichi has played at the Marion Correctional Institution and Animarathon, the anime convention held in the Union every March.

Through these shared performances and classes, many have noted the social aspects of Taiko.

“I’m an introverted person and this is a way for me to come out of my shell … I’ve met so many friends through Taiko,” said Doyle.