Joji Hirota & the Taiko Drummers,
Japanese Taiko
(ARC, 2004)

Joji Hirota is a multi-instrumentalist, but on Japanese Taiko the focus is totally percussive -- and inspiring.

"Taiko" is Japanese for a generic drum, though there are many styles and shapes in a typical ensemble and Hirota's group is no exception. A dozen different percussion instruments were employed for the nine tracks on this album.

The Japanese believe taiko, as a musical style, encourages good rhythm in everyday living and it has been used for centuries as an incentive to both mental and physical training. Emphasis on courtesy and team work is vital to its practice.

One of the earliest uses of taiko was as a martial instrument, initially to frighten the enemy and then to motivate troops. Later it found a place in religious practice, the rhythm providing a focus in Buddhist and Shinto rites. Modern taiko, which has captivated audiences around the world, dates to the 1960s when Daihachi Oguchi, who came from a jazz background, formed the first ensemble to play for purely entertainment purposes.

Hirota, who began his taiko training at the age of 11, forged a musical career that made him known around the world before forming this percussion group in the 1980s. The nine selections on this album were all composed by Hirota and reflect traditional as well as modern usage of the instruments. He is joined here by seven other drummers, three of whom are not Japanese.

This album is a wonderful introduction to the world of taiko. Turn up your speakers. This music is meant to be loud.

review by
John R. Lindermuth

9 June 2007

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