Master Japanese drummer, Daihachi Oguchi, a former jazz drummer, was one of the first to elevate the traditional folk sounds of taiko to modern music played in concert halls. In 1951, he founded the first taiko ensemble, Osuwa Daiko, breaking down ancient rhythms into new compositions and modern arrangements. “Your heart is a taiko,” Master Oguchi would say. “All people listen to a taiko in the mother’s womb. It’s instinct to be drawn to taiko. In taiko, man becomes sound.” Master Oguchi subsequently helped found other top taiko groups in America, including San Francisco Taiko Dojo.
With Master Oguchi’s guidance, Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka started the first American taiko group, San Francisco Taiko Dojo, in 1968. His goal was to make the word “taiko” as familiar to American people as karate and judo. That following year, Reverend Mas Kodani founded the Los Angeles Buddhist Temple and Kinnara Taiko. Sensei Tanaka’s philosophy held that taiko embraces the wisdom of martial arts and, in particular, that physical training and discipline should be used to perfect form and technique. Reverend Kodani’s esthetics flowed more from Buddhist spirituality. Although their styles and philosophies were slightly different, their passion for taiko has since inspired tens of thousands of people and spawned hundreds of groups throughout the North America.
Taiko in Colorado began in 1976 with Mark Miyoshi and the founding of Denver Taiko. Miyoshi was so inspired by the cultural and creative expression of Sensei Tanaka and the San Francisco Taiko Dojo, he returned to Colorado with the intent to form a Denver based taiko group. Sensei Tanaka eventually provided Denver Taiko with the discipline and technique needed to evolve from a small percussion group into a true taiko ensemble, in which the sound of taiko is fused with powerful visual performance art.
Furthering taiko in Colorado, Julia Misawa, a long time student of Grand Master Tanaka, founded Boulder Taiko HIBIKI. Misawa’s energetic style and adherence to traditional SFTD techniques, together with her acceptance of a broader student community, opened the study of taiko to Boulder and the surrounding areas. Boulder Taiko HIBIKI (HIBIKI meaning resonance) also embraces Master Oguchi’s mental and spiritual rigor by incorporating taiko meditations into a daily practice.