Daihachi Oguchi, the master Japanese drummer who led the spread of the art of taiko drumming to the United States and throughout Japan. Oguchi helped found top taiko groups, including San Francisco Taiko Dojo, which has performed in Hollywood movies and on international tours since forming 40 years ago.
A former jazz musician, Oguchi was one of the first to elevate the traditional folk sounds of taiko to modern music played in concert halls, not just festivals and shrines. He led and starred in the performance of drumming and dance at the closing ceremony of the 1998 Nagano Olympics.
Along with Kabuki theater and ukiyoe woodblock prints, taiko is one of Japan’s most popular and respected art forms in the West. Part dance and part athletics, modern taiko can be dazzlingly visual and acrobatically physical. Taiko drums, especially the ones that tower over the players, make dramatic booming sounds. A taiko drum is made from a single hollowed out tree trunk with cowhide strapped tightly across it.