Live Taiko drumming demonstration, FRFF at Winona State


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On Saturday, Feb. 11 in the Science Laboratory Center at Winona State University, Jennifer Weir and her wife Megan Chao Smith performed a drumming piece for the Frozen River Film Festival. The event was held prior to their film, “Finding Her Beat” was screened for audience members. The drummers explained that Taiko drumming plays a huge role in Japanese culture and tradition.

Lillianna Van De Walker, Features Reporter

Jennifer Weir and her wife, Megan Chao Smith, captivated their audience with a Taiko drumming demonstration to give the crowd an insight into the film screening of “Finding Her Beat” on Saturday, Feb. 11 in the Science Laboratory Center at Winona State University. 

The live Taiko drumming demonstration was performed before the film screening of “Finding Her Beat” for the Frozen River Film Festival. 

“We would love to get you curious and more interested about Taiko drumming as an artform growing that’s not only from Japan, but it’s very popular here in America,” Weir said.

Weir and Chao Smith began their demonstration with a striking rhythm played on a large circle canvas drum. The crowd could feel the beat in their chests as the drummers struck the large canvas. With Weir on one side of the circle canvas and Chao Smith on the other, they played at the same time creating a powerful anthem. The anthem they played was written by Miyumi Hashimoto who was also featured in the film.

The next piece that Weir and Chao Smith performed was called “Matsuri” which means festival in Japanese. Weir explained that they would only be playing a small demonstration of the song. This piece was very compelling as the audience was fascinated by the control of the beat.

“I thought that the drumming demonstration was amazing,” Tyler Capelle, a first-year student and teaching English as a second language major, said.

Capelle heard about this event through an email. Capelle decided to go to the demonstration because they had never seen a live Taiko performance before.

“I thought it would be a cool experience,” Capelle said.

Weir and Chao Smith also explained the background and history of Japanese Taiko drumming. 

“In the summer in Japan, you can go to village festivals with different traditions,” Weir said, explaining the importance of the piece. “There’s dancing, drumming, eating, drinking, drinking, and dancing and more drinking.”

The drummers explained that Taiko drumming plays a huge role in Japanese culture and tradition.

“Traditionally in Japan, long ago, the most fit, most pure of heart, most strong man would get up on the roof of the building to get up to see who played the best,” Chao Smith said. “That person received a prize of probably food or rice.”

Weir and Chao Smith explained how Japanese taiko pieces are truly a form of art. It is not just playing a beat. There is so much that goes into each song and they are all choreographed. 

The demonstration was performed in the atrium of the Science Laboratory Center which was perfect for the drumming because the large open space allowed for great acoustics. The three drums were set up on the star-shaped bench which acted as a stage for Weir and Chao Smith. The atrium’s acoustics help the audience members appreciate the pulse of each beat played. 

As the demonstration ended, Weir and Chao Smith thanked the audience for appreciating their art and encouraged them to learn more about Taiko drumming by watching the film.

It was obvious that this demonstration touched many people, both young and old and across multiple demographics. For anyone who missed the film screening of “Finding Her Beat”, this film, as well as others from the FRFF, are still available to view online for a limited time.