Daihachi Oguchi 小口大八 (1924-2008)

Daihachi Oguchi had invented Kumi-daiko; the style of assembly taiko drums or group drumming, in 1951.

But, what do we know about Daihachi Oguchi?

Daihachi Oguchi was born on February 27, 1924, in Okaya City (Nagano Prefecture, Japan). He studied percussion of rock and jazz in 1941. Although during the Second World War he was conscripted and sent to China, where he was taken prisoner. He returned to his hometown of Okaya in 1947, two years after the surrender of Japan, and in an act of his love of jazz formed the band called Sansei, which had the role of jazz drummer.

In 1948 he began to restore an old musical score of「御諏訪太鼓」Osuwa Daiko, belonging to the Temple of Suwa, devoted to the God of war and agriculture in Okaya. With help of the elders of the village of Suwa, Oguchi could decrypt the circles and marks that determined the different rhythms of taiko. However, this traditional piece rhythmic patterns were too simple for a jazz percussionist, which led him to wonder why nobody played the taiko in a group form. Thus arose a wonderful idea that led him to break with tradition.

Inspired by a set of Western drums, he devised a group in which each member would play a different taiko. He gave this group a set of drum function. The Shime-daiko, with a sharper tone, was chosen to set the rhythmic base, like a snare drum. The Nagado-daiko, more serious, added accents like the hype and wore the melodic part.

When the taiko, which had at its disposal reached the limit of its use, (because they were made  to be used at festivals and not as instruments) began to create their own taiko as well as auxiliary instruments that comply with their needs. One of his most distinguished creations, to crown its assembly, was the addition of metallic sound of the instrument resembling a bell, called 鉄筒 (Tetsuzutsu).

It was in 1951 when he completed the recovery of the style of Osuwa Daiko, which had been lost since the Meiji era, and it created what is known to us today as kumi-daiko: drums Assembly or group drumming; creation that would make history, changing taiko forever. Also in this year he composed the theme: Suwa Ikazuchi (thunder in Suwa).

Daihachi Oguchi helped to elevate the traditional forms of taiko to spectacular performances, from the sounds of traditional folk music to modern music that started playing in different concert halls and not only at festivals and temples.

In 1953, while he was still composing themes, he founded the Organization for the preservation of Osuwa Daiko in order to transmit the ancient traditions to future generations and also develop taiko musically .

Six years later (1959), it was presented for the first television transmission in Nagano starting channel NHK’s Nagano Memorial program, “Furusato no Uta / songs of my hometown”. During the decades of the 60, 70 and 80 continued composing various pieces and performing various actions, including the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964, the music festival in 1973 Asia Bali, Bangkok, Singapore and Manila, and in 1978 a Tour around Europe: West Germany, Holland, Spain, Italy, France and Switzerland.

Breathtaking choreographies and the taiko rhythms resonated in the hearts of the spectators with universal appeal. “Your heart is a taiko” Oguchi said to the press once. “We all have inner taiko, and we’ve all heard the rhythm of taiko, dontsuku-dontsuku in our mother’s womb. It is instinctive to feel attracted to the percussion of taiko

In 1979 he began organizing Nippon Taiko Foundation (formerly the All Japan Taiko Federation). He participated actively as Vice-President of 78 groups. Two years later (1981), he formed the Toronto Suwa-Daiko Group, organizing 90 taiko players to play together in the caravan of Toronto from 1982 in Canada.

Oguchi helped found the highest quality taiko groups in United States which included San Francisco Taiko Dojo, which has participated in international tours and has composed pieces for Hollywood films and tours since its foundation, more than 40 years ago. His works for films include “Amano-Naru – Tatsuo Dai-Kagura” (arranger) Deep Rising (1998), and parts in Step Across the Border (1990).

Also, in 1986, Oguchi visited the twin city of Suwa: St. Louis, Missouri, to found St. Louis Osuwa Taiko (which started as a group of guys) and a year later donated Taiko for them to continue forward.

The Decade of the 90, highlights his performance at the closing ceremony of the Nagano Olympics in 1998, which Oguchi went to 2000 taikistas a performance synchronized. In 1997 he established the Nippon Taiko Foundation; and in 1999, he acted as representative of Nagano Prefecture for the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the assumption to the throne of the emperor.

In 2008, Daihachi Oguchi and his daughter Kasumi Oguchi acted at the concert of his grandson Makoto Yamamoto. During this year, a performance together with the famous Kodo taiko group was organized. However, on a Thursday at the end of June, he was run over by a car across the street, and passed away on Friday, June 27 at the age of 84. Even two hours before, he spent virtually all his days spreading the strength of taiko through their teachings and their presentations.

In September, San Francisco Taiko Dojo held a concert in his memory, in which taiko players from around the world gathered and prayed for the repose of his soul. The taiko players from around the world honored the memory of Oguchi playing “Hiryu SanDan Gaeshi” (the God Dragon descends three times), piece based on rhythms of the temple Suwa composed in March 1972. This tells the story of a God dragon that descends and flies over the taiko players, those who pray to receive his blessings. Videos of these performances were uploaded to the website of Hiryu Project on the anniversary of his death.

This is a video of the piece “Hiryu SanDan Gaeshi” performed by Daihachi Oguchi and Osuwa Daiko in Tokyo Kenbunroku Aoyama Gekijyo in 2007. Oguchi made the base including the tetsudzutsu on the third “descent” of the dragon:

In taiko, man becomes the sound. In taiko, you can hear the sound through your skin

Daihachi Oguchi1

This article was written on: June 4th, 2014

Original language of this article: Spanish

Original article: Daihachi Oguchi 小口大八 (1924-2008)

Translator to English: Gastón San Cristobal

Native English Auditor: Ai Matsuda

1. Osuwa Daiko http://osuwadaiko.com/en/http://osuwadaiko.com/syodai/
2. Grandmaster Daihachi Oguchi http://www.hiryu-project.com/daihachi.html
3. Mr. DaihachiOguchi’s family http://tatsosuwa.com/family.html
4. Daihachi Oguchi: Taiko Drum Master Silenced http://www.allaboutjazz.com/daihachi-oguchi-taiko-drum-master-silenced-daihachi-oguchi-by-randall-robinson.php#.U2LGvPl5N8E
5. The History of Taiko: The Heartbeat of Japan http://www.taiko-center.co.jp/english/history_of_taiko.html
6. Road to Modern Taiko Runs from Suwa to St. Louis http://jasstl.wordpress.com/road-to-modern-taiko-runs-from-suwa-to-st-louis/
7. Daihachi Oguchi Obituary http://www.legacy.com/ns/obituary.aspx?n=daihachi-oguchi&pid=112347988
8. Daihachi Oguchi, 84, Japanese Drummer, Dies http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/28/arts/music/28oguchi.html?_r=0
9. Daihachi Oguchi 1924 – June 27, 2008 http://themusicsover.com/tag/daihachi-oguchi/
10. Daihachi Oguchi IMDB http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2146792/?ref_=nmbio_bio_nm

Author: Ion Díaz Larrauri

Nationality: Spain


– Apprentice of Shinzui Daiko (Buenos Aires, Argentina) 2013-2014

– Member of Wadaiko Hama (Tokyo, Japón) 2015-

Ion Diaz Larrauri

Ion Diaz Larrauru

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