Drum Tao
Philippe Couture - October 25, 2023

Drum Tao: 30 Years of Japanese Drumming

A spirited beat. A visceral pulse. A universal rhythm. Not only do the percussionists of Japanese taiko troupe Drum Tao impress audiences with their virtuosity and power, they also tell the story of a changing world, navigating from ancestral to contemporary times, and blending Japanese traditions with those from other parts of the globe. Let’s delve into the ensemble’s realm of quaking drums before its stop at Place des Arts in January 2024 as it celebrates its 30th anniversary.


Originally used in a military context and later adapted for sacred purposes by the Buddhist and Shinto religions, the wadaiko (or taiko) drums used by Drum Tao emerged during the Jōmon period, over 10,000 years BCE. But collective taiko drumming, with the drums played in groups, is a more recent practice: jazz drummer Daihachi Oguchi came up with the idea of kumi-daïko—or a taiko ensemble—in 1951.


Drum Tao, a group of virtuoso percussionists, pays tribute to this history by performing on a wide range of Japanese drums, including hand-held snares and ōdaiko drums that can weigh up to three tons. They also use other instruments, such as the Japanese marimba, flute, and harp.


It’s a powerful musical experience: the rhythmic synchronicity of the drums paired with athletic players taking part in a physical performance that also incorporates movements borrowed from the martial arts. All of this takes place against a spectacular audiovisual backdrop. In other words, a total performance. A respectful approach to tradition in an up-to-date setting with a clear sense of the here-and-now.


30 years of drumming


The Drum Tao troupe came onto the Japanese musical landscape in 1993. Born in the Aichi prefecture, south of Tokyo, it nevertheless found its inspiration—at least in part—in Quebec! Indeed, as its founder, Ikuo Fujitak, had his eye on Cirque du Soleil at the time, when the circus group dared to use a wadaiko drum in the Mystère show, demonstrating that this percussive art form could resonate powerfully in a contemporary stage context.


While the traditional drum has always been the basis of the group’s work, several influences have slowly seeped into Drum Tao’s performances. Even reggae rhythms have been included, through collaborations with Amon Miyamoto of the group Shonan no Kaze, in a show that toured around the world in the second half of the 2010s.


Today, the group includes over 40 percussionists who perform on stages world-wide. The drummers are divided into three groups that can perform simultaneously on the same evening on three different continents, which all adds up to over 700 shows per year! Over 9 million spectators have thrilled to their skills over the years.


It's a date… in Théâtre Maisonneuve at Place des Arts on January 30, 2024, for an exhilarating anniversary show. The mutual love between Drum Tao and Montreal audiences has been ongoing since the troupe’s first visit here in 2018.


Drum Tao playlist 



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