Probably only the accordion equals the drum for the most played instrument in Minnesota. Well, wait. There’s the piano…
Never mind, I’m trying to make a point: Minnesota has a bangup drum history. This comes to mind because of Twin Cities-based Mu Daiko’s 15th anniversay celebration. Here are members of the ensemble rehearsing recently in Minneapolis:
Obviously, I was there since I snapped the pix and I can tell you the Japanese drumming tradition is a feast for the ear and the eye. And this is my favorite photo since they are all mostly a blur because they are moving really fast, not uncommon in taiko. Very physical.
Daiko by the way is the word for the group and taiko (fat drum) is the word for the instrument.
OK, now to my point.
By now, faithful readers of The Cities know my devotion to the amazing Minnesota Historical Society collection of historic photos. So, let’s go to the photo album, all courtesy of the MHS. Here’s your standard collection of St. Paul guys in a drum group from 1916:
And not to be outdone here’s a very snappy looking group of St. Paul women from the same year:
And now for something completely different but still with drums, Minnesota prison inmates from 1932:
And then, of course, a photo from the Minnesota Historical Society collection documenting our region’s oldest drum tradition, American Indians from Cass Lake in 1938:
The Mu Daiko drumming roots date to 1997 when the group was founded by Rick Shiomi. But the tradition goes way back, maybe thousands of years, as Japanese used the drums to lead people into battle, communicate among villages and mark religious observances.
Then, the story goes, a Japanese soldier returning from World War II who happened to have a jazz drumming background found old taiko notations.
He thought the rhythms were pretty boring, jazzed them up, and the freshened taiko tradition hit this country in 1968.
Anyway, after a week of performances at the Ordway the Mu Daiko members hit the road for a batch of performances around the state.
-February 23, 2012 at A Center for the Arts in Fergus Falls
-February 25, 2012 at Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing
-March 1, 2012 at Grand Marais Playhouse in Arrowhead Center for the Arts, Grand Marais
-March 3, 2012 at The Reif Center in Grand Rapids