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A young Woman's drum solo
A young Woman's drum solo

Taiko is a general term for Japanese drum, and the best part of the Nisei Week celebration comes when taiko troupes perform. There is nothing quite so basic and tribal as a drum beat, and when you hear taiko you will be swept away. Taiko is extremely disciplined, with drummers playing at sometimes breakneck speed... and all perfectly synchronized!

One of the perennial favorites of L.A's Little Tokyo matsuri is the taiko group, Zendeko. The Zendeko troupe is composed of equal numbers of male and female members, and their collective expression is far more important and dominant than any individual effort.

In taiko, the drumming of many melds into a single heartbeat. Taiko troupes usually include other instruments to round out their sound. The kane (bell), chan-chiki (hand gong), and hyooshigi (wooden clappers) can be heard accenting the large traditional drums. Taiko performance is physically demanding and requires great skill and stamina. Drummers use kakegoe (shouts and vocal calls), to encourage each other and to focus their ki (spirit).
A group of Female drummers
A group of Female drummers
A group of Male drummers
A group of Male drummers

The young artists of Zendeko are a model for today's youth. Disciplined and dedicated to an artistic vision, working collectively and cooperatively to preserve and advance the culture of their community... the exemplary spirit of these young artists should be recreated everywhere!

On the very last day of the annual Nisei Week Festival, an Ondo Dance is held. Ondo is a kaleidoscope of color and motion, a photographers dream! Hundreds, sometimes thousands of people will dance in unison to the sound of traditional music. People of all ages come out in their finest kimono for the celebration, and onlookers are always encouraged to join in.
Beautiful Ondo Dancers
Beautiful Ondo Dancers
Ondo Dancer and Sunflowers
Ondo Dancer and Sunflowers

Ondo is always a magnificent occasion... the sheer beauty and spectacle of thousands dancing gracefully down the avenue, resplendent and elegant in all their finery... is impossible to forget! Ondo dancers form a large circle around a tall, stage-like podium called a yagura. Atop the yagura are drummers, singers, and loud speakers blarring the traditional music that the people dance to.

Many dancers come out to perform in groups composed of from 10 to 20 Dancers. Each group has its own unique style of dressing so that one group will be dressed all in pastel green kimono printed with purple plum blossoms, while another group will be outfitted in white kimono with blue checkerboard patterns, and so on. The effect is a dazzling, sumptuous, rainbow array of color and style!

O-bon  dancer
O-bon  dancer
O-bon  dancer
O-bon  dancer

The dancing is slow, dignified, and exquisite, it is full of refined gestures, grace and charm... it is the very picture of sophistication itself. Many of the costumed dancers have beforehand practiced their dance moves under the direction of a master, so the discipline and unity of movement is startling. The dancing goes on for hours, and eventually spectators are encouraged to join! Soon the number of dancers triples, as people in street clothes gleefully join in!


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