Taiko drumming has been synonymous with Japanese culture for centuries. Outside Japan, those of us in the theme park world remember the virtual Taiko drummers in the spectacular IMAX Solido exhibit at the Seville World’s Fair. And if you are a Cirque du Soleil fan, you may have seen the Taiko-inspired opening to Mystere. Now Roland has envisioned and created an electronic Taiko drum with the TAIKO-1.
Performed mostly in stage plays until the 1950s, Taiko went wide when a jazz musician developed an ensemble style of drumming called kumi-daiko, which became a long-standing hobby for over a million people in Japan. It continues to this day. However, as anyone with a teen drummer knows, drums can be loud and these large Taiko drums can be very loud. To help drummers practice at home, electronic instrument company Roland partnered with Kodo, an acclaimed taiko performing arts group. The resulting TAIKO-1 lets you play in near silence, and helps you perfect your rhythm with built-in practice modules and accompaniments.
The Roland Taiko drum also provides access to a range of Taiko drums within single profile through the TAIKO-1 electronics. The okedo daiko is on board, along with the familiar nagado daiko, the smaller shime taiko, and the enormous odaiko, which produces a massive, thunderous voice. Other sounds include different bachi (stick) variations, chappa (a pair of small cymbals), hyoshigi (a pair of wooden blocks), and layered drumline sounds, plus fun shouts and calls that are common in taiko performances. You can import own WAV sounds via a USB flash drive. Imported sounds can be played on their own or layered with internal instruments to create unique blended voices, not possible with the analog instrument. With onboard Bluetooth support, Roland says it’s easy to incorporate backing music and lesson content, and wirelessly stream music from a smartphone to TAIKO-1, and then listen through headphones or a connected speaker.
WATCH THE VIDEO: (and don’ t miss the duet starting around 1:13 and getting big at 1:50-ish).
TAIKO-1’s physical design is based on the katsugi okedo daiko, a popular taiko drum carried with a sling over the shoulder. But the modern digital sound engine takes its range far beyond the capabilities of any acoustic drum, allowing you to play a wide variety of taiko percussion sounds with one instrument. A sample library of traditional taiko drums comes with the Roland Taiko drum, but you can add your own lossless audio samples, too. The drum will help you tighten up your rhythm with plenty of on-board backing accompaniments and timing practice tracks.
The TAIKO-1 uses a mesh surface rather than hard rubber to recreate the flexible feel of a drum’s skin without the loud noises. Each side of the drum has two zones that trigger different sounds — the center produces deep staccato hits while the edges create long, higher-pitched notes. And as with most electronic drums, the velocity of a hit determines the volume and pitch of the resulting sound.
Thanks to dual-zone trigger technology with positional sensing, you’re able to get a wide variety of tones from just one drum. Center hits are punchy and full, while playing slightly off center provides longer tones. And when you want a crisper sound, simply play near the edge. Playing velocities are perfectly translated too, providing unrestricted dynamic expression.
Play for up to five hours on eight AA rechargeable Ni-MH batteries, with no need for external power. And by connecting TAIKO-1’s audio output to a wireless system such as the BOSS WL series, you’re free to roam the stage with no cables to get in your way.
The TAIKO-1 will be out in July and will cost $1,500. That sounds like a lot, but a traditional taiko drum of the same size and style — even when made and shipped from within the US — can cost more than double that. For those who don’t play taiko, the instrument could seem like a one-trick-pony. But for enthusiasts, this digital version of the traditional instrument is probably an exciting proposition.
ABOUT THE ROLAND TAIKO-1:
Born and made in Japan, the groundbreaking TAIKO-1 electronic percussion instrument infuses the classic taiko experience with the many benefits of modern music technology, making playing Japanese percussion more fun and accessible than ever before. Backed by decades of development knowledge behind leading products like V-Drums and the ELCajon EC-10, TAIKO-1 brings the power and convenience of Roland electronic percussion to taiko enthusiasts everywhere.
The taiko: a traditional Japanese drum with limitless rhythmic possibilities. Kodo’s mission is to explore these possibilities, and in the process forge new directions for a vibrant living art form. Since the group’s debut at Berliner Festspiele in 1981, Kodo has given over 6,500 performances in 50 countries on five continents. This figure includes 4,000 performances under the “One Earth” banner, a theme that embodies Kodo’s desire to transcend language and cultural boundaries, all while reminding their audiences of the common bonds we all share as human beings.
In addition to its theater schedule, Kodo enjoys working with thousands of school children across Japan through its ongoing “School Workshop Performance” tours. The ensemble also participates in a wide range of projects and events, which includes headlining major international festivals, contributing to motion picture soundtracks, and collaborating with a wide variety of global performing arts leaders.