shumei taiko

myth & history

the musicians

a u d i o / v i d e o






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Music by Meisho Tosha

Four-point-six billion years ago

More or less, vast mists of gas
And cosmic dust coalesce.
The universe wakes.
And on the trailing edge
Of a minor galaxy
The sun and planets
Come to light and spin.

Earth has its nativity and
Life’s first pulse is heard.


Music by Meisho Tosha

In the beginning, there was nothing,
Nothing, save darkness and silence.
Slowly came the heavens and the stars.
Slowly came the sun and the earth.
From just one spark burst a great
Flare of heat and light came
Beaming over the face of Earth
And woke the seasons in every leaf.

As winds blow forever over wide seas
So life advances, wave by wave.
Now, voyage with the drums’ thunder
And the fluteís voice and voiceís breath
To the wondrous land of Hikari.


Owashi (Mighty Eagle)
Music by Meisho Tosha

See a mighty eagle perched
Atop the tallest pine of the tallest cliff
Peering down upon the earth.
Sovereign of nature
Graceful, noble, strong
He takes flight.
Broad wings cut circles in blue skies.
Birds screech. Creatures flee.
Fish swim to secret depths.
A silhouette with sharp eye
Swoops down, rips the air.
Time stops.
The world is still.
He strikes.
Kill secure in sharp talons
The sun gleams on his back
As calmly he ascends.

Serene ruler of an endless sky.


Soh (Speed)
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Music by Meisho Tosha

People rush
Through parks
On beaches
In mountains
People rushing
Through streets
Over land.


Men, animals
Running, rushing
The whole earth
Spins, speeds


Meisho Tosha, master of the Japanese flute and Director of the Shumei Taiko Ensemble, has observed the fast pace of people throughout the world and has transformed their tempo into music. In the composition Soh the driving taiko beat captures both the rhythms of jazz and a runner’s pulse.


Rai (Thunder and Lightning)
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Music by Meisho Tosha & Koji Nakamura

Have you noticed
In each season
Thunder and lightningís
New temperament?
In spring their flash and roar
Prod birth and growth.
In Summer, they are passionate
Impulsive as a sudden gale.
In Autumn, they are companions
of the sullen squall.
And in Winter, they bear heavily
The numbing snow.

In ancient Japan, thunder or "Rai" was thought to be caused by a deity named "Raijin." He also was the god of lighting. Often, he is depicted as a demon carrying a drum in a circle on his back and sticks in his hands. His drum is called "Thunder Drum" or "Raiko."


Music by Meisho Tosha

The word "Koto" means ancient capital, evoking the essence of the old city of Kyoto and its time-honored festivals. A variety of instruments, such as bells and gongs, are played during these celebrations. Their sounds invoke the spirits to ward off misfortune and welcome happiness. "Koto" is a modern arrangement of these ancient sounds.



Standing on the beach
Solace is in the surf’s soft roar.
In it, we hear our first mother’s pulse
The Sea from whom all life came.

Born in the far south, swelling
Until each breaks on the rocks
We are touched by its spray
And wary of its power.

In our hearts, we know its force
Its regularity and its transience.
Since ancient times, its throb
Has echoed the beat of taiko.


Four Seasons

In Japan, the soul is nurtured by the seasons.

In Spring, flowers bloom under arbors and the sky holds a chorus of birds. On a sun-dazzled street, one pauses for a wind-chime, and taiko is heard in a child’s laughter.

Summer is full of the festivals and drums, gongs, and bells. The sky darkens, rain and wind follow. And Summer dies slowly.

Autumn is the most stunning. Day after day, the sun dims and leaves quietly turn the colors of fire. Autumn is a time of immense silence.

Snow softly falls in Winter. Listen, hear its sound. (Is it only in Japan that one hears the sound of snow falling softly?)

And now, taiko and flute give you Japan’s four seasons.



The texts of the poetry accompanying these selections of the Shumei Taiko Ensemble’s music are freely adapted from the Japanese poems of Kazuhiko Maehara.