San Jose Taiko (SJT) is a drumming ensemble based in San Jose’s Japantown. They are renowned for their unique blend of traditional Japanese music with world-music influences. Spark joins SJT as they prepare for their 35th anniversary celebration.
SJT was started in 1973 by Reverend Hiroshi Abiko, Roy Hirabayashi, and Dean Miyakusu. They were looking to promote Japanese cultural awareness in San Jose, a city with one of the longest established Japanese communities in the United States. They chose taiko for its excitement and athleticism, and because it offered them a chance to engage with third generation Asian Americans who had not been raised with the traditional music of their ancestors.
Early on, SJT developed its unique take on taiko by fusing it with a variety a beats from the R&B music the members grew up on, and the percussion sounds of Bali, Africa, and Brazil. While some early critics were skeptical of the SJT’s departure from the traditional, they’ve started a trend of innovation in the art form that has spread across the country. The ethnically diverse performing company tours extensively both nationally and internationally, reaching over 100,000 people each year.