Taiko is the Japanese word for drum. In an English context, taiko is used to refer to the art form of ensemble Japanese drumming, more technically called kumidaiko. Taiko as a performance art has grown phenomenally in North America since coming over from Japan in the late 1960’s. It has also spread to many other countries around the world.
Throughout this history, the taiko community has been very loosely organized, relying primarily on informal relationships. In the mid-90’s, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC), a nonprofit ethnic arts and cultural center based in Los Angeles, saw the need for a gathering to help support the growing community of taiko practitioners. The first North American Taiko Conference (NATC) was held in 1997. A phenomenal success, the conference continued and was held biennially until 2011. In addition to being held in Los Angeles, JACCC sponsored conferences in Sacramento, CA, Seattle, WA, and Stanford, CA. The NATC has grown to become an important opportunity for the taiko community to network, develop skills, and reflect upon the community’s growth. The conference is attended by virtually all of the community’s pioneers and next-generation leaders, as well as students just beginning to dabble in the artform. The 2011 conference was attended by around 800 participants, workshop leaders, and volunteers.
In 2012, due to other organizational priorities, the JACCC decided to delay and ultimately cancel the 2013 North American Taiko Conference. Many members of the community began to express concern for the future of the conference, which has become a major touchpoint for the taiko community in general. Under the guidance of a group of recognized taiko community leaders, and with the blessing of the JACCC leadership, the Taiko Community Alliance (TCA) was formed in October 2012 to help secure the future of the conference and give the taiko community a path to greater responsibility and self-determination about its future.
The TCA leadership is made up of a group of recognized taiko leaders representing the geographic and artistic diversity of the community. After the TCA was incorporated in the State of California and established a bank account, the JACCC agreed to turn over the account balance containing profits from previous conferences. These funds would serve as seed money for the first conference hosted by TCA in Las Vegas in June 2015.
TCA continues to produce the biannual NATC. In 2017 taiko enthusiasts gathered in San Diego, CA; in 2019 in Portland, OR. And the mission of TCA to empower the people and advance the art of taiko is supported by broader programming to enrich and strengthen the taiko community. TCA programming currently includes: Grants, Partner Program, Community Calendar, Taiko Census, 50th Anniversary Song Commission “Made in America: Taiko Voices”.