CulturalFest Countdown: Meet Taiko Kai

Crowd favorite Taiko Kai will be sharing their rhythmic Japanese drumming at the CulturalFest Performance Showcase on February 2. Learn more about how they will share the art of taiko.

Taiko 2.jpg

How did your group begin?

Taiko Kai, meaning "taiko club," was founded in February 2013 by UW students Kim, Kellie, and Jaymi Matsudaira. Through the club, they wished to introduce taiko, Japanese drumming, to UW. Led by students, the club teaches individuals how to play taiko and performs at various on- and off-campus events. What started with only a handful of people interested in learning has grown into about 30 regularly attending members each year, many of which had no music experience prior to joining. Though taiko is an uncommon art form in Western society, it is powerful because it appeals to people all backgrounds. Taiko Kai seeks to share their love of taiko with audiences, sharing Japanese culture with UW and the greater Seattle community.

What is the significance of your performance in connecting your group to your own culture?

Though taiko is from Japan, the North American style of playing is significantly different from traditional styles. It is a relatively new art form since taiko was brought to America in the 1960s by grandmaster Seiichi Tanaka. In this way, Taiko Kai feels a connection to the origins of taiko while contributing to what North American taiko, and even Pacific Northwest taiko, are becoming. Taiko styles in North America have the freedom to draw inspiration from anything like Japanese folktales to hip hop, leaving something new to always be discovered.

Taiko 1.JPG

What has performing in past CulturalFests meant to you? What can the audience expect to be different this year?

Taiko Kai considers CulturalFest to be the most formal performance they have done. We see it as a great opportunity for newer members to experience performing in a more formal setting, since most of our performances are more casual. CulturalFest is also a way in which we share our art with the UW community. People recognize us at other campus events because they saw us at CulturalFest, and some even feel inspired to join our group afterward. It is so amazing to see our art reach others, especially on such a big campus like UW. This year, we are including all performers in all of our songs to show the power and energy of a kumi daiko (group drumming) ensemble.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about your performance?

Though taiko drumming is a musical art, it is also highly visual. Many of our songs involve choreography like arm movements and bachi (drumstick) twirls. Some rhythms may be simple but are made complicated to perform because of choreography. In experiencing taiko audibly, visually, and sometimes physically, audiences will be blown away by the power of the art form.

Learn more about Taiko Kai on Facebook, and come see their performance on February 2!


General admission tickets are on sale now for $15 online or in the FIUTS office (HUB 206). Kids 10 and under are free (a child ticket is required). Discounted student tickets are available for $10 in advance ($15 at the door).