Taiko drums echo in NZ classrooms

Students throughout Aotearoa are taking up the chance to learn about Japanese taiko drumming thanks to taiko workshops offered by the Asia New Zealand Foundation.
Nelson Girls for taiko article

Japanese classes at Nelson Girls College try out the online taiko drumming workshop

In the Auckland region, experts can visit schools to provide instruction, and online workshops are being offered to schools throughout New Zealand using Zoom or Google Classroom. To date, workshops have been held at eight schools in Auckland, Nelson, Dunedin and Wellington.

Taiko | 太鼓 refers to the full range of Japanese drums, small to large, and also the practice of performing Japanese drumming.

Taiko drumming instructor Steve Seth from Tamashii Taiko runs the online sessions. He takes the students through the history of taiko, then introduces the different drums to the class – what they are called, what they are made of and what they sound like.

Seth says he really enjoys seeing the enthusiasm of the students when delivering the workshops.

“I like sharing my passion for rhythm and drumming as well as introducing the students to part of another culture (or even they're own if they are Japanese) that they may not have encountered before.”

Japanese teacher Bronwyn Thomson from Otago Girls High School held an online taiko workshop for her students earlier this year.

She says it provided her students with cultural insights that are often hard to bring to the school due to being away from cultural hubs in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

“The opportunity to take part in these online workshops and experience different cultural aspects has been hugely motivating for the students,” Thomson says.

Hear from Mirhan and Mickhe, two year 9 students from Macleans College who took part in a the taiko drumming workshop

Mirhan, a year nine student from Macleans College in Auckland, says he found learning about the history of the drums during the workshop particularly interesting.

He was fascinated to find out that the drums were first used in Korea and China before being brought to Japan.

"It was amazing to think we actually learned a lot... about the drums and how they use drums in Japanese society and how they originated, so I found it quite enjoyable.”


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Macleans College in Auckland held taiko drumming workshops in their Japanese language classes.

Asia New Zealand Foundation education adviser Yasheeka Bertram says the hope is that learning about taiko will be a stepping stone for students to learn more about Japanese society and culture.

"If it's the first time a student has encountered Japanese culture, we hope it will spark an interest in them, and for students who are perhaps studying Japanese language, we hope it provides them with extra motivation." 

When learning went online due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the education programme team saw an opportunity to expand their Asian cultural workshops to a wider audience. Now that restrictions on gatherings have been lifted, the Foundation is exploring more ways to bring cultural activities such as taiko drumming into schools but will still offer online workshops.

The Foundation's education programme offers taiko drumming, wushu (Chinese kung-fu), rakugo (Japanese storytelling) and Bollywood dance workshops. It also offers Experience Asia funding to hold events in schools/school clusters that deepen students’ understanding of Asian cultures.

Or, if you would like to include Asia-related topics in your classroom teaching, have a look at our educational resources, including new additions that are made for online learning.

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