Wadaiko (Japanese drum) (和太鼓)
Wadaiko (Japanese drum) is one of the percussion instruments. Generic name of Japanese drums. There are shime-daiko (tight drums), oke-daiko (tub drums), and mya-daiko (imperial drums). Japanese drums are used in festivals, kabuki Noh plays, and ceremonies in temples or shrines; a leather skin is mounted on a hollowed out wooden trunk and is made to vibrate to emit sound.
A drum beaten with a drumstick is called "taiko" (Japanese drum) and a drum beaten by the hands is called "tsuzumi" (a hand drum).
Generally, a Japanese drum is characterized by a very distinct reverberation and a lingering sound.
As for its structural characteristics, a skin is mounted on either sides or one side of a cylindrical trunk or a wooden bucket assembled by boards. The sound is fine-tuned according to the diameter of the mounted skin and the length of the trunk. This is a general phenomenon in physics. Historically, in the whole world except Japan, the drum was not born as the main constituent in music. This general phenomenon, however, has proved in history by (the Japanese drum in performing arts and in music) centralizing the Japanese drum as the main constituent. The important characteristic of the Japanese drum is its simplicity and lucidity.
Compared to other percussion instruments, it is stronger than other musical instruments, such as drums.
It is said that the Japanese drum had already been used as a means of the information transmission during the Jomon Period, and the history of the drum in Japan is very old and can even be traced back to a scene in the Japanese myth "ama-no-iwato" (the door of the rock room in heaven) in which a tub was placed bottom upward to make a sound. From the remains of Togariishi in Chino City in Nagano Prefecture, earthenware mounted with skin, presumed to be used as a drum, has been excavated. Entering the Medieval Period, with the development of dengaku (ritual field music), the Japanese drum for musical accompaniment became popular.
During the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States), daimyos (warring lords) used drums called jin-daiko (a battle drum) to lead their armies to battle. Because the beats of the Japanese drum synchronize with the pulses of the heart, which is the beginning of human life, there is even a theory that the Japanese drum has the nature to encourage one's will, according to this theory, the use of drums in war provides an effective practical use.
Until recent years, the drum had been used to announce the time. Today, Japanese drums are performed as the leading role of Bon Festival Dance and other festivals or as a means to conveying god's intention, and are put in Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples as tools to bring fortunes or avoid curses.
In the case of the Japanese drum, there are both a wide and a narrow understanding (interpretation). In the wide-sense, the drum is something with a mounted skin struck in some ways to emit sound, thus, it includes all the drums ranging from the uchiwa-daiko (a round fan drum) recognized by the aborigines in Asia, the Native people in Asia, the drum struck in the Nichiren sect, to the hand drums used for the Noh music. However in general, when called a Japanese drum, it is understood in the narrow sense to be a bowl-shaped or cylindrical, truck mounted with a skin. Either of them is classified with the membranophone as the musical instrument.
The Japanese drum as a drum in the narrow sense only will be described as follows;
Japanese drums as public entertainment and music
court music of ancient Japan
In court music, the Japanese drums called gaku-daiko (a flat drum beaten by two sticks) are facing the stage. One stroke of the Japanese drum sounds whenever the scene is ended, so it is an important element that leads the entire music. Moreover, as to appearance, it includes lacquer paint, and the main body as well, are colorfully decorated; extremely beautiful.
Japanese drums have been used in Shinto from ancient times. Kagura (sacred music and dancing performed at shrines) or Noh musical accompaniment (played with traditional Japanese instruments) are such examples. Apart from sole performance, those combined with shino-bue (a bomboo flute) are often seen.
In Buddhism, the Japanese drum is not so often seen to be used except for the round fan drum in the Hokke and Nichiren Sects; as far as percussion instruments are concerned, the mokugyo (a fish-shaped small wooden gong) and the bell are exclusively used (the Hokke and Nichiren sects, however, use mokusho (a round small wooden gong) instead of mokugyo), nevertheless for a large-scale event, the Japanese drum is used with the metallic gongs and metallic drums.
Besides this, as a farm village belief with the vague boundary between Buddhism and Shintoism, the Japanese drum is also often used in ritual field music (dengaku) and in mouth spiritualism (communication with the spirit) via a Shrine maiden.
The use of the Japanese drum in the theatre music is highly systematized in accordance with the way of striking to express different scenes. Here are some examples: when the Japanese drum is struck successively with narrow drumsticks, it represents the sound of raindrops; when it is struck softly and weakly emitting low sound with drumsticks wrapped with a cloth, it represents the sound of the snow; when between those intervals it is struck horizontally with drumsticks picking up the tremble on the drum surface giving out cracking clamors, it represents the sound of thunder or avalanche. Moreover, it is used in scenes when a ghost appears or to abstractly express an original impossible sound.
United Japanese drums
Although the Japanese drum did not develop into music with itself being the main constituent until the start of Showa Period, drum player Daihachi OGUCHI made use of the fact that the sound differs in accordance with the length of the trunk, the diameter of the skin surface and the combination of both, to tailor the Japanese drum in order to perform a piece of music. This so-called multiple drum and multiple beat technique (performing style), is the origin of the united Japanese drums in which a number of people are playing in concert with a variety of Japanese drums. With the accomplishment of multiple drums and multiple beat techniques, the Japanese drum, which had been until this was devised mostly playing a supporting role in other performing arts, established its position in music with itself being the main constituent.
Types of Japanese drums
While there is a type for striking on one side, there is also a type for striking on both sides. The former type includes the imperial drum and the tub drum, and is characterized by loud volume and low pitched sound. As a Japanese drum, this type comprises the majority. The latter type includes the round fan drum, and is used by the Nichiren sect. High pitched sound, but the sound is little.
Material (wood) for the body
Because the main material, zelkova wood, has been insufficient from domestic production in recent years, shioji wood (Fraxinus platypoda) mainly, or sometimes quince (leguminous), and oak from overseas are used, with using these hard woods, a swollen hollow cylindrical trunk is made by hollowing out a timber or by assembling the boards together.
A piece of cow hide (the female hide is liken to silk while the male hide or Holstein is likened to cotton) is mounted with tacks, strings, turnbuckles, and metal fittings onto the rim of the trunk. In performance, the skin is struck with a wooden stick called a drumstick. Basically, the hide of a female cow which has given birth several times is considered to be the best, however, for a big drum, a bull's skin might be used.
Examples of Japanese drums
Long trunk Japanese drum, imperial Japanese drum
The trunk is made by hollowing out a timber. In many cases, the hide is fixed onto the trunk with tacks (tack-fixed Japanese drum). This is often found in temples, shrines or communal facilities, and many drum organizations perform with this. Generally, those are the ones commonly seen.
Japanese tub drums
These are drums in which separated long strips of wood are tightened together to make a circular trunk. Low pitched sound with loud volume. The trunk is made from wood like Japanese cypress or sawara cypress, which are characterized by their relative lightness. Such drums tightened with string are the main types.
(It is to the right side of the Japanese drum surface that can be seen in the background of the photograph in the upper part of the page.)
Japanese tight drums
This is a drum on which the skin is mounted onto the trunk with strings, bolts, nuts (parts) and turnbuckles. Tone quality can be adjusted according to tightening. It is often used for kabuki, traditional folk songs, samisen (three-stringed Japanese banjo) and so on for keeping rhythm.
This is a drum with a membrane mounted on a circular frame. It is used by Hokke and Nichiren sects when chanting.
Drumsticks made of oak or Japanese cypress are sold as well. Occasionally, those made from bamboo might also be used.
Fragile materials such as lauan, pine, white birch (a silver birch) and materials that split readily, give resin easily, or ruin the skin, are unsuitable for making drumsticks.
Styles of performance
Classification according to number
The performance style of the Japanese drum is often classified according to the type of drum and the number of drummers.
The former is classified into 'multiple drums' (performed with various drums) and 'single drum' (performed with only one types of drums), while the latter is classified into 'multiple drummers' (performed by at least two drummers) and 'single drummer' (performed by only one drummer). Thus, the above classifications give rise to 4 types of combinations as follows. The originator of the classification method is Masahiro NISHITSUNOI.
multiple drums, multiple drummers technique - various types of drums are struck by many drummers, commonly called "Kumidaiko" (united Japanese drums). multiple drums, single drummer technique - various types of drums are struck by one drummer. single drum multiple drummer technique - one type of drum is struck by many drummers. single drum, single drummer technique - one type of drum is struck by one drummer.
Nowadays, the multiple drums, multiple drummers technique (united Japanese drums) designed and established by the Osuwa Japanese Drum originator Daihachi OGUCHI is the main stream performance.
Classified according to the style of placing the drum
Sueoki-gata (the style with the drum placed on the floor)
A style of performing with it placed on the floor. The single drum multiple drummer technique, however, is chiefly practiced on the Japan Sea side around the Noto peninsula.
Kakaemochi-gata (the style of holding or carrying the drum)
Performing style while carrying the drum on the drummer's back or holding it with his hands
Katugiyama-gata (the style of carrying on a pedestal)
The so-called "mountain shrine" or "portable shrine" is a shouldered style. The single drum multiple drummer technique, however, is chiefly practiced on the coastal area of the Seto Inland Sea.
Hikiyama-gata (the style of shouldering and carrying a Japanese drum)
It is a carrying style like the "mountain shrine." The single drum multiple drummer technique, however, is chiefly practiced on the Japan Sea side around the Tohoku area.
For katugiyama-gata or hikiyama-gata, there is a drum stand used.
Examples of classifications and groups
Single drum, single drummer technique
Sueoki-gata (the style with the drum placed on the floor): Fukujinki taiko-odori (Fukujinki Japanese Drum Dancing, Kumamoto Prefecture), Myojin-bayashi (Myojin Accompaniment, Fukui Prefecture), Bon Festival Dance
Kakaemochi-gata (the style of holding or carrying): taiko-odori (Japanese drum dancing), nembutsu-odori (praying to Amida Buddha and dancing), taue-odori (dancing for planting crops)
Katugiyama-gata (the style of carrying on a pedestal): Murotsu taiko-mikoshi (Murotsu Japanese Drum Portable Shrine, Hyogo Prefecture), Tokuyama taiko-mikoshi (Tokuyama Japanese Drum Portable Shrine, Yamaguchi Prefecture), Aso ondaue-matsuri (Aso Crop Planting Festival, Kumamoto Prefecture)
Single drum, multiple drummer technique
Sueoki-gata (the style with the drum placed on the floor): Gojinjo-daiko (Japanese Drum Formation, Ishikawa Prefecture), Hachijo-daiko (Tokyo metropolitan area), Tsuzumi-bayashi (drum accompaniment, Okinawa Prefecture).
Katugiyama-gata (the style of carrying on a pedestal): Tsugai-danjiri (Hyogo Prefecture), Tenjin-sai Festival Moyoshi-daiko (Osaka Prefecture), Furukawa-matsuri Festival (Gifu Prefecture)
Hikiyama-gata (the style of shouldering and carrying a Japanese drum): Tsugaru Joppari-daiko (Aomori Prefecture), Omihachiman odaiko (Shiga Prefecture), Nakanojo Torioi-daiko (Gunma Prefecture)
Multiple drum, single drummer technique
Sueoki-gata (the style with the drum placed on the floor): Kyokuuchi Japanese drum (Okinawa Prefecture)
multiple drums, single drummer technique
For Sueoki-gata: Osuwa Japanese Drum (Nagano Prefecture)
Hikiyama-gata (the style of shouldering and carrying Japanese drum): Kokura Gion Japanese Drum (Fukuoka Prefecture), Chichibu-yomatsuri Night Festival (Saitama Prefecture)
Costumes and make-up
In general, a drummer wears hantako (trunks) with a bellyband (a band of bleached cloth) and a hanten (a short coat originally for craftsmen worn over a kimono) or a happi coat (a workman's livery coat), however, in a creative Japanese drum performance, the costumes may be a white kimono, with a hakama (a long pleated skirt worn over a kimono) of color such as red, or dark blue, depending on the groups, and there are also groups of men (sometimes boys in extremely rare cases) dressed in loincloths, depending on the play. For women or girls, there are cases when they put on heavy make-up such as eye shadow or thick lipstick.
Relationship between creative Japanese drums and costumes and make-up
Since many creative Japanese drum groups are derived from the Japanese drum of some festival, it's natural that they wear common costumes and make-up resembling those in the festival. Among them, there are also some minority groups who perform in loincloths that make them quite popular. Events where taking pictures is allowed are highly popular, especially the groups wearing loincloths are highly popular among amateur photographers. There are enormous numbers of Japanese boys drum groups, but among them, a group performs in only a loincloth, and in their last play, they take off the hantako leaving only the loincloth and bring about a large applause. In contrast, there seems to be a lot of dissappointment from the spectators when a performance with the loincloth is avoided. A lot of these Japanese drum groups secure their loyal admirers in this way. Of course, they also rely on the level of their technique.
As for the music for a Japanese drum performance, while some are based upon ancient music, there is also newly composed music in recent years.
Daihachi OGUCHI: "Yukoma (a brave horse), Shinano-dengaku, bangaku-no-hibiki (echoes from thousands of mountains)"
It was performed in the closing ceremony of Nagano Olympics (XVIII Olympic Winter Games held in Nagano City).
Play for multiple drum, multiple drummer technique (united Japanese drums)
Akira NISHIMURA: "Seishin-kagura," for an ensemble of Japanese percussion instruments played by eight musicians (1992)
A work commissioned by the National Theater
Music score published by Shunjusha Publishing Company
Percussion Group 72, the percussion group usually playing western drums, played the score for the first time because they are on friendly terms with the composer. Besides the Japanese drum, it is a work with a lot of percussion instruments of Japan, however the second movement is a Japanese drum solo (single drum, single drummer technique). The influence by heterophony of polyrhythm or the influence by kecak of irregular accent, etc., and the grammar of a composer's initial work is splendidly reproduced with just one Japanese drum.
Mitsuaki SATO: "Ruten-shokusei" (Flux weaves) (2006) is an ensemble of Japanese drums, Tsugaru-jamisen (three-stringed Japanese banjo of Tsugaru), and gamelan.
First performance in Bali Arts Festival 2006
By 2006, there were already more than 100 creative Japanese drum pieces, and new ones are being announced continuously, with more than 50 groups playing them. They can be heard on Senrai CD and so on.
Works performed with an orchestra
It is a work where a soloist plays the eading role.
Maki ISHI: "Mono-prism" for the Japanese drum and orchestra (1976)
He won the Otaka Prize
Among pieces from the same composer, there are also "Monochrome" and "Monochrome II" for the Japanese drum. These are pieces for the Japanese drum, performed by ZA ONDEKOZA for the first time.
Isao MATSUSHITA: "Hi-Ten Yu" a concerto for the Japanese drum and orchestra (1993 - 1994)
Only one drummer for the Japanese drum performance (solo)
Eitetsu HAYASHI, the representative from "Kodo," presented his first performance.
Akira IFUKUBE: "Rond in Burlesque for Wa-daiko and Band" (1983)
Only one drummer for the Japanese drum performance (solo)
Single drum, single drummer technique
Isao MATSUSHITA: "Drumming of Japan JAKOMOKO JANKO" (1984)
It is a piece with part of the percussion instrument composition using the Japanese drum.
Yuzo TOYAMA: "Rhapsody"
Events related to Japanese drums
Event in which individuals can participate
The Nippon Taiko Training Class: held several times at various places nationwide every year.
Various events in which two or more amateur Japanese drum groups participate
Events going on now
Outdoor event where taking pictures is allowed
Early August: Ryozen Japanese Drum Festival (Date City, Fukushima Prefecture)
Early August: Numata-matsuri Festival (Numata City)
Mid August: Summer Festival of Joshu (Maebashi City)
Late August: Kuzugenjin-matsuri Festival (Kuzu Festival of Primitive Men) (Sano City)
Late August: Matsuri Tsukuba (Tsukuba Festival) (Tsukuba City)
Early October: Tomioka donto-matsuri Festival (Tomioka City) (held every other year, next time is 2008)
South Kanto area
Mid May: Japanese Drum Festival at Kanda Festival (Chiyoda District) (held every other year, next time is 2007)
August: Okaya Japanese Drum Festival (Okaya City) (stopped in 2006)
August: O-TA-I-KO Hibike (Let the drum echo)
August: Sound of Japanese Drums, Forest of Dreams (Koga City, Shiga Prefecture)
Early September: Shinon Kansha Nihon Taiko-matsuri Festival (Japanese Drum Festival for thanksgiving to the gods' blessings) (Ise City, Mie Prefecture)
September: Wadaiko Festa (Japanese Drum Festival) (Toyonaka City, Osaka Prefecture)
These are indoor activities (there are cases where recording and picture taking are prohibited).
January 6 (Sunday): Taiko-matsuri in Saitama Super Arena (Japanese Drum Festival in Saitama Super Arena) (Chuo Ward, Saitama City), sponsored by Japan Taiko Association
Held irregularly: Ibaraki-no-Taiko (Japanese Drums of Ibaraki), various groups from Ibaraki Prefecture take turns performing on the stage
South Kanto area
Late October: Wadaiko Festival (Japanese Drum Festival) (Yotsukaido City)
Mid November: Nippon Taiko Junior Contest in Tokyo (Japanese Drum Contest for Young People in Tokyo) (Shinagawa Ward)
Mid November: Tokyo-no-Taiko (Japanese Drums in Tokyo) "Bachi-no-Kyoen" (Resonance performance by drumsticks) (various groups in Tokyo take their turn to perform on stage)/sponsored by Tokyo Taiko Foundation
November 23 (national holiday): Tokyo Tama Taiko-matsuri Festival (various groups in Tokyo take their turn to perform on stage)/sponsored by the steering board of directors for Tokyo Tama Taiko-matsuri Festival
Held irregularly: Ichida-sai Festival
A big stage where performances, etc. were done in the past. The Nagano Olympics (1998) - Japanese drum performance by 2000 people striking simultaneously.