Taiko, the first native Japanese musical tradition to spread throughout the world, has only recently made the North American scene. Though still not as popular as the MTV, it's easy to see why taiko is catching on, what with its thunderous beats and buff little guys in loincloths pounding away on giant drums. There are an estimated 150 taiko groups in North America, dating from the formation of the San Francisco Taiko Dojo in 1968; that's an astonishing growth spurt when you consider that taiko has been around for more than 1400 years.
Originally used for intimidation and as a troop coordinator, the taiko (meaning "fat drum") was strapped on a soldier's back and played by two other soldiers on the battlefield. Eventually relegated to religious ceremonies and played only by holy men, it wasn't until after the Second World War that the international phenomenon of modern taiko music developed. In the 1950s innovative jazz-drummer Daihachi Oguchi formed the first taiko ensemble. Over the past 50 years, taiko groups have taken the neo-traditional music to new heights with a heavy emphasis on energy, choreography and pageantry. Taiko is visceral, primal, spiritual theater. Experience it free of charge at the St. Louis Osuwa Taiko Annual Spring Concert at 5 p.m. at Bowles Plaza on the Washington University campus (Forsyth and Skinker boulevards). Visit www.stlouis.osuwa.taiko.cc for more info. -- Jedidiah Ayres
Spring Scenes focuses on the music
Never underestimate the power of the mixtape. Home sampling at its finest, the mixtape allows you to separate the wheat from the chaff and hear just the highlights of bloated, overlong albums. In a nod to this democratic development, Webster University's Opera Studio presents Spring Scenes from Famous Operas at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 28, and Thursday, April 29, at the Music Annex Building (8282 Big Bend Boulevard, 314-968-7128). Featuring just the "good stuff," such as "The Letter Duet" from The Marriage of Figaro and "The Paradox Trio" from The Pirates of Penzance, students in simple costumes belt out the hits (in English) with piano accompaniment. Experience just the music, not the Byzantine plots, for free and without the frills. It's opera for the common man, man. -- Paul Friswold
House of Cards
Hallmark on tour
Isn't it nice/creepy when the note inside your birthday card seems composed just for you (unless you're a step-parent, in which case the message both outside and in is typically delicately weird)? Who are these Kansas City strangers who seem to know you so well? Hallmark wants to introduce you! Monday, May 3, is your first chance to meet poets-for-hire Matt Gowen and Jennifer Fujita on their "Hallmark Writers on Tour," um, tour (www.hallmark.com/meaningfulmoments). Tell them about your favorite card experience at Botanicals on the Park (3014 South Grand Boulevard, from 2 to 3 p.m.) -- your memory may inspire them. You can also visit the moment moguls Tuesday, May 4, and Wednesday, May 5, at various venues. Admission is free but limited, so call 800-565-6617 by Saturday, May 1, to reserve your soft-hearted spot. Maybe you can motivate the scribes to write the perfect poem for your stepmom just in time for Mother's Day (and prevent another bad-card year of "You're Real Swell, Stepmom"). -- Alison Sieloff
New Sounds of Old
Tired of all the blips and clicks and whirrs that form the backbone of modern music? Jerome Bryerton (percussion), Wolfgang Fuchs (reeds) and Damon Smith (bass) are the Bryerton/Fuchs/Smith Trio, and they pluck, bow, brush and blow their instruments, creating thickly textured, dynamic palettes of sound -- without ever resorting to plug-ins or software. The musicians perform at 8 p.m. at the Phillip Slein Gallery (1520 Washington Avenue, suite 300; 314-995-4963) as guests of the New Music Circle. Tickets are $6 to $12. -- Paul Friswold
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