ancient Japan, the beat of a drum or “taiko” accompanied
petitions to God. Today, the ceremony lives on and is called
"Mikotonori," in which the sound of drumming bridges
the divide between the human and the divine. The thunder of
taiko is pure. It cleanses both the senses and the surroundings
of those who pray. Mikotonori is a prayer in which the hopes
and thankfulness of those participating rise straight to God.
Such occasions of transcendence are known as " kanno doko
," moments in which the spiritual and physical worlds speak
to each other and are entwined with divine light. It was at
such a moment that the Shumei Taiko Ensemble was born.
creation of the Ensemble was set in motion by the Shumei organization's
dynamic second president, Sokichi Koyama, when he proposed a
"One Hundred Drums Celebration" to commemorate the
birth of Shumei's founder, Mokichi
Okada . The event was held at Shumei's International headquarters
at Misono in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, on December 23, 1982.
On that winter day, the chilly stillness of the Shigaraki Mountains
was broken by the sharp reverberation of one hundred drums.
year later, young drummers played at the celebration marking
the completion of Meishusama Hall in Misono. The performance
was so moving that President Koyama arranged to have a few of
Shumei's drummers, including the Ensemble's first leader Koji
Nakamura, join Japan's foremost taiko group, Ondekoza. Over
the next two years, the skills of Shumei's first drummers were
Koyama understood that taiko music could transcend not only
the barriers between the human and divine but also those borders
that separate races and cultures. He believed that taiko music
could further world peace and universal well-being. And it is
his great vision of concord and harmony that has sustained the
Shumei Taiko Ensemble ever since.
Sokichi Koyama's sudden death in 1984, Koji Nakamura left Ondekoza
and returned to Misono with two other drummers. The Shumei Ensemble's
beginnings were unassuming, just three musicians and three small
drums. However, with perseverance, step by step, the Ensemble
Ondekoza's stylistic influence as a backdrop, the Shumei Ensemble
struggled to explore its own musical territories. Finally, under
the musical direction of Meisho Tosha, foremost master of the
Japanese bamboo flute and the Shumei Ensemble's Music Director
and Resident Composer, the Ensemble found its own voice. New
music was created, a distinctive performance style evolved,
and the Ensemble's signature balance of drums and flutes was
perfected. It was under Mr. Tosha that the group came to life
on its own terms.
its founding, the Shumei Taiko Ensemble has come to occupy an
eminent place in the world of the performing arts. Not only
acclaimed for its mastery of traditional technique, the Ensemble
is also lauded for engendering a pure, strong, and dynamic form
of music that is both modern and original.
the Shumei Taiko Ensemble continues to unite people of all beliefs,
nations, and languages in a grand vision of love and harmony.
The Ensemble began in a moment of kanno doko, in which the sound
of drums accompanied prayers to heaven. Its music can be understood
as a form of prayer, a prayer for world peace and friendship
among all people of the earth.