Since the "taiko boom" of the closing decades of the 20th
century, taiko drumming has arguably become Japan's most globally successful performance medium. Shawn Bender
's recent book takes us through the history and spaces of this art, from the stretching of animal skins to make its instruments through the seemingly incongruous sounds of taiko in The Scorpion King
. Taiko Boom: Japanese Drumming in Place and Motion
(University of California Press, 2012) is a wonderfully rich study that will satisfy readers completely unfamiliar with the medium, as well as taiko aficionados. Based on years of fieldwork with a number of groups and extended experience living and working with taiko performers, Bender's work focuses on the ways that the history and ethnography of taiko can help us understand how living and performing in modern global societies transforms our experience of the local, and how the performance of locality is embodied in the muscles and bones of human flesh. In the course of our conversation we spoke of many aspects of the work and of taiko, including the marathon-running drummers of Kodo, Pierre Cardin's taste for loincloths, and interesting recent attempts to standardize taiko drumming through printed textbooks. Enjoy!