The Current

Great Music Lives Here
Listener-Supported Music
Donate Now
The Morning Show - With Jill Riley

Enso Daiko to bring the thunder of taiko drums to Rock the Cradle

Enso Daiko
Enso DaikoDan Norman
  Play Now [7:38]

by Jill Riley

March 09, 2023

The Current's annual, free Rock the Cradle event for kids and their grownups returns this Sunday at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Children's Theatre Company. There are so many activities throughout the day, so to name a few here: you can check out the kids' disco, that's been a longtime favorite, and Ayisha Jaffer Bill DeVille will be there on Sunday; YourClassical Storytime; we've got pop up performances from the team at Brains On!; live music from Koo Koo Kanga Roo; and also TaikoArts Midwest taiko group, Enso Daiko.

So taiko drumming. I started asking some questions, so we called on a member of the TaikoArts Midwest taiko performance group, Enso Daiko. Hiroshi Yoshino joined me on The Current's Morning Show, so instead of trying to figure all of this out on my own, it's always best to call on an expert.

A man holding a taiko drumstick
Hiroshi Yoshino
Rich Ryan

Jill Riley: So Hiroshi, how are you? Thank you for being on the show.

Hiroshi Yoshino: Oh, thank you for having me, Jill.

Jill Riley: Yeah, we are looking forward to this performance at Rock the Cradle. And so I want to start just with the big question, the general question: What is taiko drumming?

Hiroshi Yoshino: Short answer is that a taiko is loud Japanese drum, right? The word taiko means a drum in the Japanese language. In Japan a taiko can mean any kind of drums, but outside of Japan, that's exclusively for Japanese drums.

Jill Riley: When did the art of taiko drumming come to the Midwest or make its way into the U.S.?

Hiroshi Yoshino: So taiko was brought to the United States by the Japanese immigrants in the early 20th century. And in the late 1960s, the Japanese immigrant Seiichi Tanaka opened a taiko dojo studio in San Francisco. So that's kind of the origin of the U.S. and North America. And then later, with the efforts of the Seiichi Tanaka, the taiko had spread through North America in the late 1970s. The Buddhist temple community in Chicago started taiko drumming, and that's the beginning in the Midwest. And eventually, brought to Minnesota through Kogen Taiko in 1985. 

Jill Riley: Tell me about the group. Tell me about Enso Daiko. So, tell me about the group that people will be able to see this Sunday at Rock the Cradle.

Hiroshi Yoshino: Enso Daiko was founded as Mu Daiko in 1997 by Rick Shiomi when the TaikoArts Midwest took over the taiko program formerly supported by Theater Mu. Mu Daiko changed its name to Enso Daiko, so that was 2017. There are currently eight members in Enso Daiko and are led by our artistic director Jen Weir.

A taiko drummer during a performance
Jennifer Weir is artistic director of Enso Daiko.
Rich Ryan

“Enso” has several meetings, including "circle of togetherness"; "the void"; or my favorite is the "acceptance of imperfection as perfect." So we, as a group, we offer loud, energetic performances. So we have performed at big theaters like the Ordway Theater. We also performed at local schools and the libraries. Where our positive energy is needed, wherever that is, we'll be there. Enso Daiko's next annual concert is scheduled at Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing on Saturday, May 13.

Jill Riley: Yeah, that is a beautiful theater. So Red Wing, just know that this performance will be coming to you very soon. I'm speaking with Hiroshi Yoshino from TaikoArts Midwest taiko performance group, Enso Daiko. And so, you know, I just wanted to ask, you know, it's not just a performance. When it comes to, you know, taiko drumming, there are so many different elements involved. I mean, it's a performance, but it's also an art. It's a practice. What is really the goal when you're performing?

Hiroshi Yoshino: Yeah, so the purpose is like including the music, improvement of the music skills and the practice. It can also include your building confidence, integrate mind, body and spirit together. So the great things about taiko is not only making the sound, it's kind of some physics, the physical movement involved. I will say it's good exercise. That's all coming together as a part of the drumming art form.

an ensemble of taiko drummers
Enso Daiko
Rich Ryan

Jill Riley: Yeah, so it is, like you mentioned, you know, confidence building, and it really does look like it's a physical workout and it's about working together as a group to make the sound. And you know, when it comes to the performance group, there's Enso Daiko, but people can also take classes through TaikoArts Midwest. What are the classes like? How do people get started? 

Hiroshi Yoshino: A lot of people get interested in the Japanese culture through various reasons, that include animes and those manga stuff, yeah, that's a part of it. But thank you for having an interest in Japanese culture. Any way of being interested, that's fine! We offer a lot of taiko classes, but through that, I feel that we are also providing, you know, some cultural experiences as a center. We offer classes from children to adults. So once we had a student in her 70s, so you know, age is not a limit. Classes are structured based on their skills and experiences. And we also offer trial sessions for the people who want just a taste of taiko, just a little bit.

Jill Riley: And so that's through TaikoArts Midwest, and you will be able to get a taste of what the performance is look like this Sunday afternoon as TaikoArts Midwest taiko group Enso Daiko will be performing at Rock the Cradle. Hiroshi, what can families expect to experience at the performance for people that are, you know, curious, and they might follow the sound of the drum? You know, what can people expect from the performance?

Hiroshi Yoshino: So we are fortunate to be a part of this event. So a museum is usually where you are supposed to be quiet, but we are going to make loud music there. You can expect that. We are planning to perform a few songs while explaining about the history of taiko, what it is made of, and how we learned taiko songs. We're also going to teach you a song, and you can actually hit the taiko drums at the end yourself.

Minneapolis Institute of Art
“Pounding Hooves” by TaikoArts Midwest

Jill Riley: Oh, that'll be a lot of fun. And again, for the kids and for their grownups, and like you mentioned that there's you know, there's really no cutoff in the age. Hiroshi Yoshino is a member of the TaikoArts Midwest taiko performance group, Enso Daiko. Thank you so very much, and tell your entire group thank you for coming to Rock the Cradle this Sunday. We look forward to it.

Hiroshi Yoshino: Sounds great. Thanks so much for having me, Jill.

Jill Riley: Okay, so TaikoArts Midwest Enso Daiko at 3:30 this Sunday afternoon at Rock the Cradle. Follow the sound of the drums! Really, their performance will be in the Minneapolis Institute of Art reception hall. So if you forget where to go, again, follow the sound. Rock the Cradle opens at 10 a.m. on Sunday, and this free family event runs through four o'clock at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Children's Theatre Company. You can check out the full rundown of the day at thecurrent.org

Credits

Guest - Hiroshi Yoshino of Enso Daiko
Host - Jill Riley
Producer - Rachel Frances
Digital Producer - Luke Taylor

TaikoArts Midwest - official site

Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment
This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.