The importance of including women into Taiko practice cannot be overstated, for it has key socio-cultural implications. For example, women who practice Taiko
“are discovering adeptness as natural as their beating hearts. On a personal level, the simple, elemental motion of striking a drum is a powerful antidote, a creative outlet, a healing tool, a workout for mind and body, a spiritual quest. On a broader cultural level, women with a penchant for percussion are insisting they no longer be relegated to spectator status, by creating drumming rituals which include them.” (Cummings 24)
Along with feminist overtones, the changing flow of tempo, interspersed by flute interludes (which were also rendered by a female artist in Akatombo) is devised to have philosophical connotations, representing the ups and downs of life. Periods of slow tempo during the performance particularly allow for such philosophical contemplations. Since Japanese folk music and culture are heavily influenced by the Buddhist heritage of the country, this intermingling of art and philosophy is almost inevitable. Indeed, Taiko drumming used to be an integral part of Japanese life even a few centuries ago. It is not an exaggeration, then, to say that the Akatombo (or for that matter most Taiko performances) leave the audience in a state of thoughtful reflection, if not a state of meditation. (Wong 36)
While the drums and the music produced by them are central to the performance, the sequence is rendered to appeal visually as well. Hence, choreography and musical composition play their respective roles in creating the spectacle. In the Akatombo performance video, we witness how the two women pound drums mounted on stilts while moving around them and each other in a complex choreographed dance.
“The primal drumbeats soak the senses, and the visual intricacies only add to the experience. Musicians, their legs splayed widely for maximum dramatic impact, hold their sticks aloft like warriors with their weapons before striking their drums. Taiko, which means ‘fat drum’ in Japanese, produces a loud but not painful sound that flows through the listener’s body like an audacious spring breeze. Taiko drums have been used for centuries in Japan for various purposes, from bolstering religious services to intimidating advancing armies” (Toto 4).
The case of Noami Guilbert offers insights into how and why women are embracing this ancient Japanese art form. Guilbert, whose mother is of Japanese descent, has gone on to create her own drum group. Called Fubuki Daiko (foo-boo-key dye-ko), the term literally translated as “blizzard drums.” The term has a dual meaning: one describes the constant movement of the players; the other describes the blustery weather that is quite common in Japan. Guilbert was fascinated by Taiko drumming and was determined to learn it. Guilbert notes that she was drawn by “the physical and soulful exhilaration of belting ancient barrels with the same force mustered by a welterweight boxer” (Cummings 24). Moreover, “the learning process itself was a test of my feminist consciousness” (Guilbert, as quoted in Cummings 24). The feminist consciousness of Guilbert was awakened in another way too. Her teacher, though highly regarded for his skill, had the bad habit of hitting his students when they made mistakes. But Noami Guilbert was not someone to take such treatment lightly: