The Hippo


May 26, 2020








Courtesy photo.

Taiko drumming

Where: House of the Samurai, 28 Buttrick Road, Londonderry
When: Orientation is Saturday, Jan. 6, from 4 to 6 p.m. Classes held Saturday and Sunday
Cost: $240 for teen and adults 8-week course with a drop-in rate of $35 per lesson, $160 for children classes and families classes 8-week course with a drop-in rate of $25 per lesson
Contact:, 443-6557

Drumroll please
Japanese drumming dojo comes to Londonderry

By Ethan Hogan

 A Japanese taiko drumming school has found a home in Londonderry. Led by American Jason Seymore, Hokuto Taiko Dojo is starting classes this month at its new home at the House of the Samurai. 

The inaugural orientation on Saturday, Jan. 6, will be the official start of the dojo’s first eight-week introductory course. The orientation will be an opportunity for Seymore to outline his expectations for students and teach them the traditional etiquette of the dojo.
Seymore said the course will be primarily technique-driven, teaching students how to stand and how to position their bodies for the proper strike. Taiko drumming requires the entire body in order to perform, so the course will have simple workouts that prepare muscles required for drumming.
“I think the piece that attracts people the most is that use of their energy and being able to be creative and explore new ideas and new perceptions of culture. … This is developing yourself as a person, it’s developing new skills that you can take outside of the dojo — you have a better appreciation for others, a better appreciation for different cultures,” said Seymore.
Taiko means drum in Japanese and is played using sticks called bachi. The drum is most commonly played while standing, although Seymore said there are more advanced techniques played sitting down or at an angle.
Introducing students to Japanese culture is as important to Seymore as teaching them the music. “Students can have a really good sense of where taiko drumming came from and why it’s so important to remember that taiko drumming is not just about playing big drums, it’s also about tapping into your spirit and connecting with that primal, visceral soul that you have,” said Seymore.
Archaeologists have found 2,000-year-old pots decorated with depictions of taiko drummers, according to Seymore. This means the tradition potentially spans more than two millennia. Seymore said taiko drumming was often used exclusively by priests for ceremonies in ancient Japan before becoming modernized by ensemble performances and upbeat, western techniques in the 20th century.
“The drums were said to be the booming voice of the gods,” said Seymore. “We all have taiko in us, within our souls, because it’s the first sound that we hear in our mother’s womb. The beating of her heart is the first sound of taiko that we hear, which is why we are so drawn to the sound of the drum,” said Seymore.
Each village in Japan would have its own taiko drumming song that would be used at ceremonies and festivals, he said. Some stories also tell of taiko being used on the battlefield to give samurai military commands while also intimidating the enemy on the battlefield, according to Seymore.
Seymore fell in love with the instrument and the story of its native culture while growing up in Orlando, Florida.
“Even though I’d always loved music and drumming, taiko was something on a different level. It hit me and it was soul-piercing but in a good way,” said Seymore.
For 10 years, Seymore learned to play from the leader of an all-Japanese troupe at the Walt Disney World Epcot Center. When Seymore moved to New Hampshire he couldn’t find a taiko community and decided to open a dojo himself.
“To my surprise there were none. So I started thinking, ‘Well, what if I change that? How do I continue my journey with taiko drumming?’ All the signs pointed to bringing it and continuing my legacy in New Hampshire. So that’s what I’ve done,” said Seymore.
After a short-lived stay as a business at the Concord Community Arts Center, Seymore said Hokuto Taiko Dojo had to find a new location because of noise concerns. The dojo became a nonprofit organization and found The House of the Samurai, which had asked Seymore to perform in the past and offered him a space to teach.
“We can really focus and make sure that we are solely doing this for the purpose of promoting a positive image of not only Japanese culture but cultural exchange in general and sharing that with the people of New Hampshire,” said Seymore.
Another eight-week course that will delve deeper into the different drumming techniques will be held in the spring, according to Seymore. The dojo also offers private lessons for students currently in the introductory course and workshops and performances for schools and businesses.

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