Taikoza Performance at Miller Outdoor Theatre: Rolling Thunder

On Taikoza's website, the drums or taiko that the group performs on are described as: "a large, barrel-like drum that can fill the air with the sounds of rolling thunder." What perfect timing it was, then, that Taikoza performed this past Saturday, a day filled with rumbling thunder of its own as sporadic showers swept through the Houston area.

Taikoza was founded in New York in 1995 by Marco Lienhard, a member of Ondekoza, the group that originally popularized the art of taiko drum-playing in the '60s.

It now has six main members: Malika Tasuko Duckworth, Marguerite Bunyan, Chikako Saito, Yoshiko Canada, Kenji Nakano and Mashayo Ishigure. Taikoza has performed all over the world, from Russia to New York (and Houston), and for all sorts of audiences: the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, ESPN S.U.M.O.: The Battle of the Giants, Dell Computers, Merrill Lynch, etc. They also perform philanthropically, teaching students in schools in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Philadelphia and Virginia to play drums as part of Young Audiences and Symphony Space program.

Though designated in name as a spotlight on the large drum, there were smaller drums present during the performance, including a portion where the group members patted on what appeared to be snare drums, making thrumming heartbeat sounds with their sticks. We would begin to notice that the drums would come to represent the blood-pumping organ throughout the night.

The main drum, the taiko, sat center stage, dwarfing the two drummers on each side as they pounded away. Meanwhile, a bamboo flute, called a shakuhachi, sent heart-fluttering staccato noises throughout the outdoor amphitheater, serving as the perfect antidote to the taiko's heart-stopping booms.

There was hardly ever a recognizable rhythm pattern, a facet of music that we Westerners really on so heavily. Instead, the Taikoza drummers relied on feeling, anticipating the right time and the right impact: fast or slow, hard or soft. There were a few times when the pair did play in sync; the drummers, standing on opposite sides of the taiko and unable to see each other, coordinated perfectly timed choreography that only a psychic could have predicted.

Visit the group's website, taikoza.com, to learn more about them and the art of taiko drumming.

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