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Creating a ‘boom’

MMS band director is bringing traditional Japanese drumming to the community

October 3, 2012
By Steve Browne , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL -?People who like Japanese culture, exercise and loud sounds will get a chance to indulge all three in the Marshall Community Services Taiko drumming classes this fall.

Taiko drums are traditional Japanese drums that range from small snare drum sized shime daiko, through middle-sized nagado daiko, to o daiko as tall as a man. They are played with sticks called bachi, which can be the size of a billy club.

Chad Przymus, Marshall Middle School band director, will be teaching two Intro to Taiko Drumming classes through Marshall Community Services on Sunday evenings from Oct. 28 to Dec. 16.

Article Photos

Photo by Steve Browne
Chad Przymus, band director at Marshall Middle School, demonstrates Taiko drumming. Przymus will teach Intro to Taiko Drumming through Marshall Community Services this fall.

Przymus has been a drummer for 35 years but was exposed to Taiko drumming only a few years ago and was captivated by it.

"I went to a Taiko concert of the group Mu Daiko in the Twin Cities, and I was blown away," Przymus said.

Przymus pursued his interest in Taiko, driving to the Cities for lessons and workshops and last summer went to Japan for three weeks to study Taiko drumming on a grant from the Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council.

Though Taiko was traditionally performed solo, in the mid-20th century, a jazz drummer Daihachi Ozuki created Taiko music for groups, reviving the ancient art and creating a boom that spread far beyond Japan.

"I got to study in Daihachi Ozuki's studio with his son and granddaughter," Przymus said. "It was an incredible honor."

Most of the time Przymus studied in Achi, a small mountain village in Nagano Prefecture, "the alps of Japan."

"I had a roommate from Singapore and Germany," Przymus said. "There were people from Switzerland, Australia and England."

Traditional Taiko drums are made from whole tree trunks hollowed out and painstakingly cured. But Taiko made in the traditional way can cost tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Taiko drummers in America generally use a cheaper alternative.

Przymus gets many of his drums from Minnesota Taiko, a business run by Steve Lein out of his home in Como Park. Lein is an electrical engineer by day and a graduate of Minneota Junior High.

Lein experienced Taiko drumming at a Japanese candle lighting ceremony where he heard the group Mu Daiko perform. Captivated, he researched how Taiko drums are made and discovered the method developed by a Japanese immigrant in the 1960s who brought Taiko drumming to this country.

"Grand Master Seichi Tanaka immigrated to San Francisco where he saw some wine barrels and thought, 'Gee I bet I could make Taiko out of those,'" Lein said.

The group Tanaka founded, San Francisco Taiko Dojo, is still active and Lein makes Taiko drums the way Tanaka developed.

"I start out with a wine barrel, split it apart and put biscuit joints in place to replace the ring," Lein said. "I glue it back together and spend a lot of time sanding and varnishing it. Then I put the heads on. They're made of rawhide, about half a cow per drum. I soak the rawhide to make it pliable and stretch it into place with four six-ton jacks. Then I nail it to the drum with special tacks and let it dry."

Lein said he knows when the hide is tight enough when he can stand on it with it bending more than an inch or so. Lein estimates he's built 100 to 120 Taiko drums since 1991.

The modern drums do sound somewhat different from traditional Taiko, but still preserve the thunderous sonority of the instrument, and now Marshall residents will have a chance to experience it for themselves.

"I'm offering the intro class," Przymus said. "There's no previous drumming experience required. It's just to introduce people the power and beauty of the art. Plus it's great exercise."

Anyone wishing to register for a Taiko class can contact Przymus at or through Marshall Community Services.



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