Bon Dance

Bon Dance

Memories of a Great Taiko Drummer

S. Sanae Imada
Vol. 1, No. 5, July 18, 1980

Colorful Japanese lanterns, chochin, swing in the intermittent breeze and light the warm night with their gentle glow. The rhythmic beats of a large drum punctuate the tones of a Japanese song, and dancers, 20 to 30 men and women, follow each other in a circle as they move to its pounding.

The whole mood of the dance is affected by the movements of the drummer. He sways in the center of the circle of performers and hits the drum, the taiko, which is held upright, beating surface toward him, on a tall tower. He hits the drum, backs off, spins, comes back to tap the rim of the drum, twice, three times, spins, twirls the drum’s sticks, backs off . . .

All sounds come from the tower, besides the occasional responsive shouts from the dancers during a song, and the steady murmur of the crowd outside the roped circle. Standing on a platform about 10 feet above the ground is the singer and his musicians, while inside the tower on the ground is a phonograph, the source of the more traditional songs.

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