What is Taiko and Community?
From its origin, taiko has been used for creating connections with the world around us.
Taiko and Community is an initiative to recognize taiko as a source of building, cultivating, and reimagining community within the taiko community and beyond. Through a mini-grant from the Taiko Community Alliance, this website was launched as a toolkit and resource for taiko practitioners who are interested in building these connections. From interviews with taiko professionals to profiles of projects, we hope this website inspires you to pave new pathways. Check out our resources, and let us know if there is anything you would like to share!
Our Mission: To inspire and share the ways we build community within, between, and beyond our taiko groups, strengthening the potential of the art form and the social capacity of all our communities.
When Karen first played taiko, she fell in love
—not just with the powerful resonance of the drum, but also with the community she became a part of. Having worked as a community and cultural organizer for over two decades, Karen remains inspired by the powerful ability of taiko to bring people together. Having been grounded in the taiko community as a founding member of Odaiko New England, she founded The Genki Spark—the only pan-Asian women’s taiko group in the United States—and became a leader in the taiko community. As she travels throughout North America and around the world to Europe, Karen made it her goal to share taiko’s unifying roots as she celebrates not just taiko, but Taiko and Community.
Why is taiko and community important?
North American taiko would not be possible without understanding community. It helps us to remember the many community groups—whether created in Buddhist temples or organized by Asian American activists—that made taiko what it is today. From its origins on this continent, taiko and community go hand and hand. Community deepens our understanding of the art form, transcending our own connections to the drum to see the relationships we build with the people around us. Indeed, taiko is far from easy; it is in the moments of difficulty and discomfort that spaces to affirm and support one another become all the more vital. Taiko and community encourage taiko players to build stronger bonds within and between our groups, so that we can continue to strengthen the possibilities of the art form for the decades to come.
Yet, taiko and community isn’t limited only to those within the greater taiko community. Through centering taiko in community, we reimagine the art form as a social practice and recognize its capability in creating greater social change in the world. We expand upon our understanding of what taiko can be to reach the communities beyond the ones we practice with on a day to day basis. From empowering elders and the greater LGBTQ+ community, to incorporating taiko performance at pilgrimages, and protests, taiko players are doing incredible things to engage with the greater communities they are passionate about. Taiko and community encourages us to look beyond what we already know and imagine how the art form can better the world around us.
As we celebrate 50 years of taiko in North America, we see that the art form has grown tremendously across the world. North American taiko has been used in big movies, featured in viral videos on social media, and expanded to become a popular art form. Yet, as the field has growingly become professionalized, there are trends that also push towards individuality, moving away from the community-oriented outlook that once defined much of the taiko of early North America. Through Taiko and Community, we hope that we can not only stay grounded in our community roots but also encourage new community engagement and organizing methods.
Ultimately, taiko and community forces us to ask the following questions: how do we create spaces to affirm one another as we build this art form? How do we build community and continue to expand this art form, together? We hope that this website, filled inspiring examples and resources, will be useful as you delve into taiko and community in your own way.