Five world-class taiko drum ensembles from around the country will convene at Stanford University on August 20 for the North American Taiko Conference and the Taiko Jam 2011.

The event sponsored by Japanese American Cultural Center and Community Center offers audiences a rare opportunity to glimpse an art form that is more than 1,000 years old.

Taiko dates back to around 500 BC when it was used for court music in Japanese castles and shrines. Taiko was also used in feudal Japan during warfare to help motivate troops and establish a marching pace for the soldiers with different rhythms representing different meanings. Taiko drumming was also used in Buddhist ceremonies to ward off demonic spirits and summon gods.

Modern taiko styles were first introduced in Japan in 1951 by Daihachi Oguchi, who added a jazz element to the otherwise strictly traditional musical form. Not long after, taiko ensembles began cropping up around the world, and ultimately becoming popular in North America in the late 1960s. The San Francisco Taiko Dojo, established in 1968, was the first American taiko ensemble. While taiko currently has little to do with modern warfare or god-summoning, it has retained its popularity throughout the world.

This year’s Taiko Jam will feature five such ensembles, each offering a unique blend of traditional taiko music and modern rhythms. The San Francisco Taiko Dojo will be one of the participants of Taiko Jam 2011, as well as Inochi Tiako from Seattle, the Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble from Honolulu, Mirai Daiko from Arvada and Soh Daiko from New York. Each of these ensembles has extensive performing experience and is sure to bring their own unique spin on taiko to the stage.

Taiko Jam 2011 will be held at the Memorial Auditorium at Stanford University on Saturday, August 20 at 8 pm. Tickets are $30 for general admission.