“If you want to make a taiko drum you have to drink a lot of wine.” That’s what Rieko Shimbo told a Lovelock audience on her last visit to the community center two years ago.
Rieko returns to the community center this Saturday at 11 a.m. She’ll bring along a few taiko drummers from Tsurunokai, the drumming ensemble she directs in Reno.The name means ‘gathering of the cranes.’
Tsurunokai makes their taiko drums from wine barrels, with hide stretched over both ends. Actually, Rieko was joking. If you drank too much wine you wouldn’t have the stamina to play the instrument, let alone make one.
Taiko drumming is a full body workout. The drummers warm up before shows just like athletes. They stand upright to play, striking the drums with wooden sticks called bachi.
Rieko moved to Houston from Tokyo in 1987 and settled in Reno in 1994 to teach at the Mountain View Montessori School. She longed for the sound of taiko drums, a common backdrop to Japanese life.
“If you go to Japan you hear taiko drums everywhere,” she tells audiences. “Drummers fill every neighborhood, school and library.” She decided to build her own since having one imported from Japan was too expensive, over $5,000. As soon as she tacked on the cowhide she picked up her bachi and began to play.
The word got out. The organizers of a Japanese festival invited Shimbo to drum. Several people in the audience felt transported home by the sound. In 1996, they formed the core of Tsurunokai.They’ve performed in Lovelock several times. It’s not unusual for them to have every child and some of the adults in the audience dancing and drumming.
“Make sure to come for the Japanese drummers,” says library director Kathie Brinkerhoff. “They are the last group to perform and you don’t want to miss them.”