Big drum roll, please

LAKE PLACID – The Lake Placid Center for the Arts will welcome multi-award winners Burlington Taiko to the stage at 8 p.m. Friday for an evening of thunderous drums, explosive movement and colorful pageantry.

Men and women play with the passion of abandon, committing their bodies and spirits to the precise choreography and surging rhythms expressed in the ancient Japanese tradition of taiko (or “big drum”).

Burlington Taiko formed in 1987. The idea is that performers use the power and beauty of taiko to transcend cultural barriers and foster greater understanding of the Japanese-American culture. The group has been honored three times by the international taiko community, having been selected as a feature performer at the 2008 40th International Taiko Festival in San Francisco, the 1999 North American Taiko Conference in Los Angeles and the 1998 30th International Taiko Festival in San Francisco.

History of Taiko

Taiko is a relatively modern revival of ancient Japanese drumming traditions. The drums originally developed in India, where they were used in religious ceremony to represent the voice of the Buddha. Moving across China and Korea with the spread of Buddhism, taiko arrived in Japan around 500 AD.

Taiko quickly became part of Japanese culture. Spiritual healers played taiko to dispel evil spirits and drive insects from the rice fields. Samurai employed taiko to instill fear in the enemy and courage in themselves. Villagers used taiko in their prayers for rain and in thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest. Over time, many areas developed unique choreography and rhythms celebrating festivals or recreations of historic events.

In modern times, taiko has emerged as a performing art. Groups such as Osuwa Daiko, led by Grandmaster Daihachi Oguchi, and Sukeroku Taiko of Tokyo pioneered the way in the 1970s and ’80s, collecting local festival rhythms and transforming them into stage performance pieces.

In the early ’60s, groups such as Ondekoza and Kodo began astonishing world audiences, showcasing an almost superhuman style of taiko fostered by living a disciplined communal life dedicated exclusively to taiko. Taiko was introduced to North America more than 40 years ago by Grandmaster Seiichi Tanaka, a student of Oguchi Sensei and founder of the San Francisco Taiko Dojo. His seminal leadership and passionate style of play are largely responsible for the popularity of taiko in North America today.