Recently I had the opportunity to go to Seattle’s annual Dragon Fest in the Chinatown-International District. Between the excellent food, the amazing performances, and the fascinating variety of things on sale, along with the vibrant ambience in that part of Seattle, it was a delightful experience that I hope to make one of my annual traditions.
But the thing that stood head and shoulders above all the rest, in my opinion, was the performance by the ensemble Seattle Kokon Taiko. This video of them is wonderful, but it’s nothing like seeing them live. The drum beats penetrate your chest and change you. Their powerful energy inspires you.
Taiko drumming has been a tradition in Japan since the 6th century. It’s easy to understand how these drums were used for communication, because their sound must have echoed far out to sea. They were also used for military actions, and they can, indeed, be quite intimidating. I’m glad they’re also used for entertainment, though, or I might never have had the chance to experience them firsthand.
What intrigues me most about this genre is the extreme athleticism of the performers. The day I saw them, it was hotter than blue blazes, and yet they were rhythmically pounding those drums as if their lives depended on it. And their arms had muscles I could only dream of having.
It also has to be pretty cathartic, and pretty confidence-building, to be able to beat on something and yet create such beauty. I wanted to jump up there and join them, but I could never have kept up. But how cleansing it would have been!
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