Big drums, Big Sound, Big Life. That is Fort Wayne Taiko’s slogan. Or at least it has become my personal mantra. It’s hard to play these big drums without making big sound. And all that big sound creates big energy. And all that big energy sustained over time creates big life. A simple, yet profound formula.
I was once at a taiko conference and met a drummer who was 80 years old. I asked the elderly (agile!) woman what it was like to play taiko at that age. She smiled and said that taiko keeps a person’s spirit young and vibrant—and provides enough activity to keep the body limber. Aaaah…the proverbial fountain of youth! This secret elixir has become an important reference now that I’m in my mid-50s. Now that after waking in the morning, I hold onto the handrail and go downstairs slowly one step at a time to give my ankles a chance to warm up. Now that after sitting for a long period of time, I slowly unfold myself into a standing position and take a moment to make sure all my joints are hinging, not cringing. Now that I am careful with my lunges, mindfully assessing how deep my right knee is willing to go at any given moment. Now that I pace myself differently, knowing I might not get as much done after a taiko show… instead of jumping into the next thing on my list, I might just need time to rest.
But in the midst of all this slow-moving caution, I am indeed moving. I am bending and lifting and pulling and stretching and balancing and turning…for long periods of time. It is true that my knee hurts and my ankles pop; but it is also true that I am on my feet drumming about 6 hours a week. At this point, it’s such an integral part of my routine, it’s easy to overlook. In fact, when I evaluate my weekly exercise plan, I don’t even count the time I spend drumming. Exercise is time spent walking or swimming or focused on some activity intended to promote fitness. Taiko is time I spend just doing what I do and being who I am. But even so, when I sweat through classes and rehearsals and performances, my heart pumps and my lungs fill and my body moves and I am reminded of the smiling, agile 80-year-old woman. Big Drums, Big Sound, Big Life. Dong doko dong!