Kristy Oshiro fell in love with taiko as a child growing up on the Big Island of Hawaii.

“I remember feeling it reverberate within my body. It was the best thing ever,” she said. “I thought, ‘When I’m old enough, I want to do that.’”

Oshiro is now a professional taiko performing artist, splitting her time between students from Nevada City to San Mateo. On Thursday, she will be sharing her love of the Japanese drums at the Half Moon Bay Library. The free workshop runs from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. and is open to all ages.

“Taiko drumming is a physically dynamic, musical artform that engages all of your senses,” said Oshiro. “It is something exciting to watch and feel. It hits you from all directions.”

Oshiro said that the word “taiko” in Japanese refers to any kind of drum, but outside Japan taiko has come to mean a choreographed performance by a large ensemble on specific Japanese instruments. 

The drums range in size from the shime-daiko, which is roughly the size of a snare drum, to the o-daiko, or “large drum,” which can be impressively large. Oshiro said that some of the largest taiko in Japan can be the size of small houses. The most common taiko is the chu-daiko, which is about the size of a wine barrel. 

Performers play the taiko with wooden sticks called bachi, and the style is loud, hard and fast.  Large ensembles drum out thunderous, complex rhythms in synchronized motions, thrilling audience members both physically and spiritually. Many aspects of taiko performance mirror the qualities of Japanese martial arts, making the art form as much of a dance or athletic event as a musical performance.

Taiko have been used in Japan since ancient times. The drums were used by the military to boost morale in their soldiers, by farmers to frighten pests from their crops, and in cultural festivals and rituals. But the current, large ensemble performances are relatively new.

“In the past, it was usually only one or two taiko,” said Oshiro. “The way it is performed today is a very modern style, less than 100 years old.”

At Thursday’s workshop, Oshiro will be demonstrating the art form through solo performance, as well as sharing the history of taiko through stories and folktales. 

Participants will also have a chance to use the bachi to create their own rhythms on the thundering drums.

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