Come Friday, October 21, the Campbell Heritage Theatre will be filled with the vibrant energy of contemporary Japanese-American drumming as members of the San Jose Taiko organization premiere this year’s Rhythm Spirit 2011 Concert.

Taiko is the Japanese word for “drum,” but in North America, due to a departure from the more traditional form of taiko, taiko has come to be represented primarily by ensemble drumming, or kumi-daiko.

This year, the Rhythm Spirit show focuses on the origins of Taiko through the Japanese festival experience, known as the matsuri.

With a performing crew of about 12 performers, artistic director Franco Imperial said that this year the primary theme of the show is to fully embody the spirit of the Japanese festival into a uniquely enclosed concert setting represented by the dynamic taiko performance.

“What the audience will be experiencing are glimpses of the festival experience,” Imperial said. “We’ve been inspired by these moments that are very much apart of our community and the core of who we are, so we’re celebrating that.”

For long time fans of San Jose Taiko’s performing arts, event-goers can look forward to taking away feelings of nostalgia, familiarity and a greater appreciation for the context of why San Jose Taiko performs and their interpretation of the Japanese festival experience.

In the nationwide taiko community, San Jose Taiko, created in 1973 as a youth activity in San Jose’s Japantown, is one of about 30 located in the Bay Area and is the third organization to form outside of Japan, making it one of the largest and most experienced Taiko outlets in the nation.

Known primarily for its movement and choreography, the company tours nationally and internationally, with the Rhythm Spirit show being the only self-produced concert series in the company’s home base of San Jose this year.

By attending the show, home crowds will get to experience San Jose Taiko’s unique visual flair of presenting in a theatre, said the show’s lead executive director.

“Being in an enclosed space offers a lot of different potential,” said Wisa Uemura. “The environment is much more controlled and dramatic and the sound is more articulate and clear. The Rhythm Spirit show is a glimpse of what we usually take on tour, as far as the production value,” she said.
Although taiko is culturally based, Uemura said that overall, the music is both open and inclusive for people of all backgrounds due in part to the generally accessible and appealing nature of the drum.

“The power of the drum is a very primal and universal calling that everyone can relate to,” she said. “It’s something that connects us all, whether it is based in one culture or another.”

San Jose Taiko’s Rhythm Spirit 2011 concert will premiere Friday, October 21 at the Campbell Heritage theatre at 8pm and will have additional showings on Saturday, October 22 at 2pm and 8pm.

Tickets are available online at or over the phone at 408.866.2700 for $20-25.