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DENVER TAIKO, founded in 1976, is an ensemble of third, fourth and fifth generation Japanese Americans honoring our cultural heritage through the exhilarating performance art of taiko. Our current cast of fourteen musicians range from energetic and talented teens to accomplished veterans who have performed with Denver Taiko from the very beginning.

Early inspiration for our founding members came through a visit to Denver by Sensei Seiichi Tanaka, the taiko master who brought this art form to the United States, first to San Francisco. He is considered by players in America to be the father of taiko.

The workshop conducted in Denver by Sensei Tanaka in those early days gave these young people a deep appreciation for the history of the art and the fundamentals of its performance. These and later members have continued to expand their experiences in Taiko over the years through participation in workshops and visits with sister groups in Japan and the U.S.

In keeping with the tradition of the music, Denver Taiko has become known for its own unique performance style and personality. We have become an important part of Colorado and the West's cultural landscape, playing at concerts, festivals and diversity celebrations throughout the region. The group was honored in 2001 by Denver's Mayor Wellington Webb when we received the Mayor's annual awardfor Excellence in the Arts.

In the summer of 2003, the Japanese Consulate sponsored a 3-week workshop for the group in Denver by thefamous taiko master, Sensei Yoichi Watanabe (pictured on the right) from Tokyo, Japan. He was assisted by his prize student and protege, Isaku Kageyama, himself a national taiko champion in Japan. The close, personal attention our members received from these brilliant artists and teachers instilled in the entire group an even deeper appreciation, knowledge and mastery of this craft.

You will observe how seriously we take our commitment to making this music by our "ki", the energy and emotion of our performance. But don't be fooled - we're having fun, and we hope you will too.



The Junior Denver Taiko Group was formed in the 1980's for the purpose of passing on this Japanese tradition to the younger generations. Since then, the group has grown to around 30 members and many of the older kids join the adult group after training with the Junior group.

Junior Denver Taiko spans from ages 8 to 18. There are three levels and all groups practice every Sunday after services at the Denver Buddhist Temple.


The exact history of the art of taiko is somewhat uncertain, but the earliest instruments are likely to have come from India to Japan with the introduction of Buddhism, with influences from China and Korea, in the period between 300 and 900 A.D.

An early use of taiko was in battle, to intimidate and frighten the enemy as well as to communicate commands and coordinate movements. The deep, resonant drumbeats were capable of being heard across the entire battlefield.

The taiko was also used by farmers to ward off evil spirits and insects. Taiko soon found its way into the refined settings of the Imperial court as well as in Buddhist and Shinto ceremonies.Taiko, as it is shown today in the ensemble form, dates only to the early 1950's. A jazz drummer in Japan, Daihachi Oguchi, created the style known as kumi-daiko (kumi meaning "team",) and is given much of the credit for the current taiko boom. Modern taiko is an amalgam of the old and new, and its rhythms are not only Japanese, but are influenced by Latin, African and other music of the world.

A performance by Denver Taiko is a dynamic and propulsive event, a combination of structured rhythms and improvisational solos that roll together like thunder to stir your soul (and the seat of your pants.)


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