The Music of St. Louis Osuwa Taiko

Our repertoire is a mix of traditional pieces written by our group's founder, Grandmaster Daihachi Oguchi, such as Hiryu San-dan Gaeshi. We also play our own original pieces, including Tenchi, which means "heaven and earth," and Tsurugi no Mai, which depicts a sword dance.


Mas Kodani of Kinnara Taiko

The word Ashura is derived from the Sanskrit word asura, which means "God of the Flame." Ashura liked fighting, anger and a battle, and lived in the bottom of the sea and under the ground. It had three faces, six arms and a black-and- blue or red body. After Ashura was taken into Buddhism, it was added to the eight kinds of God who keep the teachings of Buddha, and it became the guardian deity of Buddhism. In Japan, it the mythology has been around since the Tenpyo period (710-784).


Michele Tang

The fast rhythm and repeated pointing motions signify the drive to stay ahead and achieve.



Leonard Eto

The version of Hachijou that St. Louis Osuwa Taiko plays was composed in 1986 by Ondekoza, sometimes called "the demon drummers of Japan." St. Louis Osuwa taiko plays a slightly modified version, playing in a very low drumming style which requires great power, concentration and flexibility.


Hiroshi Tanaka

Hanabi means "fireworks," and you can feel and see the fireworks bursting overhead in the festive rhythm and sweeping motions.

Hiryu San-dan Gaeshi

Daihachi Oguchi

Hiryuu San-dan Gaeshi means "dragon gods descending to Earth three times." The main body is played three times; each repetition calls upon the dragon gods to come to earth to bless mankind with peace, prosperity and good fortune.


Written by Andrew Thalheimer, Coreography by Julie Wiese

Ibuki (息吹), meaning "breath," or "vitality," was written for St. Louis Osuwa Daiko's 2013 collaboration with the African Dance group "Afriky Lolo." The intention is to blend the terpsichorean vitality of African drum rhythms with the power and modern tradition of taiko. Thanks to Diádié Bathily for the opportunity to write this piece and perform with Afriky Lolo.

Ice Cream for Dinner

Rosemary Mroczkowski

Inspired by the fun and mischief of eating dessert first, Ice Cream for Dinner incorporates cheerful bells, melodic segments and syncopation. The round sweeping motions and pointing arm movements suggest ice cream cone shapes.

Isami Goma

Osuwa Taiko

Isami Goma means "running horses." Another Osuwa Taiko original, Isami Goma captures the feeling of horses galloping across the plain. This is another piece adapted from the shrine's norito.


Andrew Thalheimer

The JuugoYa is the harvest festival of the "fifteenth moon." This piece was named after the festival because it has the number "fifteen" in it. In reality, this piece was written to blend some different styles of music and dance with taiko, from European folk music to tango. Any relation to harvests is purely coincidental.


Daihachi Oguchi

This is the song about the mythical origin of wadaiko. The goddess of the song, Amaterasu, was upset because her brother ran his oxen over her fields, destroying them. Pouting, she holed herself up in a cave, plunging the world into darkness. Ame no Uzume danced on an overturned sake barrel, making the first sounds of taiko. The gods had such a good time, Amaterasu could not resist and came out.


Andrew Thalheimer

Kaifuu means "ocean wind." As the piece progresses, Kaifuu itself represents ocean waves in various states of calm and excitement, stirred by the wind. This is conveyed by the strong but steady rhythm and wave-like motions.


Kokoro no Koe

Jaclynn Lett

Kokoro no Koe means "voice of the heart." This song is about reflecting upon the accomplishments, disappointments and aspirations in our lives. Although this is a calm and quiet process, there is also the pressure of time impelling us to make the decisions that affect our future.


Matsuri Taiko

Seiichi Tanaka

Masturi Taiko, or "festival drumming," draws its main rhythm from a traditional pack-driver's folksong, Kage Bushi, often sung at festivals in Japan. Matsuri Taiko features individual players performing improvisational solos. The main body of Matsuri was written by Seiichi Tanaka of San Francisco Taiko Dojo and arranged by St. Louis Osuwa Taiko.



On Mikaye-jima, one of the seven volcanic islands of Izu south of Tokyo, there is a festival centered on a unique style of drumming indigenous to the island. During this festival, drummers carry a single chuudaiko (middle drum) from home to home to play for the local villagers, ending up at the shrine where they play a finale in the evening. Historically an island of fishing people, several versions of the basic rhythm patterns are carried on in the villages of Miyake. This version of the Miyake song features a low, wide stance and energetic, large movements reminiscent of the stance and motions of the fishermen of long ago.


Shoji Kameda

Shoji Kameda composed Omiyage as a gift to taiko groups around the world. Omiyage, which means "souvenir," is taught and passed on to any taiko group who wants to learn it. The song shows everything that's fun and unique about the art of wadaiko.


Laura Sexauer

Laura composed this piece after learning the Oni (demon) drumming style from Kodo. It features elements of that style and a haunting violin melody.

Ororo Pinne

Ainu folk song

This mournful song is a story of a deer being pursued through the woods by a hunter. It is sung in the language of the Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan. The song was taught to our group by Kodo.


Folk Song

This is a typical folk song of Kumamoto. There are several opinions about the origin of this song: a love song sung by farmers, an improvisational sung by geisha in Nihongi (a past amusement area in Kumamoto). The scene of the song is the pumpkin fields (bobura) of Kasuga. (Today it is the site of Kumamoto Station.)

Rhythm Sandwich

Andrew Thalheimer

The name of this piece puns on san to ichi, or "three and one," which sounds like the Japanese word for sandwich (sandoichi). It is influenced by the fast syncopation of big-band swing.

Sen no Kodama (1000 Echoes)

Andrew Thalheimer

Taiko has a power to it that can be expressed just by hitting over and over. This song explores that idea, adding dynamics and sliding downbeats around. The name is meant to evoke images of repeating hits, but it doesn't hurt that it also reminds Andrew of two of his favorite Miyazaki movies.

Sumo in St. Louis

Andrew Thalheimer

Our group studied the traditional taiko intro to a Sumo match when the Missouri Botanical Garden brought two Sumo wrestlers to St. Louis in 2005. The seemingly arrhythmic style inspired the beginnings of this piece.


Osuwa Taiko

This piece is composed for the fue, or Japanese flute. It describes a day on Suwa-ko, or Lake Suwa between Suwa City and Okaya in Nagano, Japan. St. Louis Osuwa Taiko has slowed the piece down for a peaceful, haunting rendition. The accompanying dance was written by our former director, Wendy Whiteside.


Joe Kimura

Tenchi, which means "heaven and earth," was composed by Joe Kimura, who was responsible for revitalizing St. Louis Osuwa Taiko in 1996 and leading it from 1996 to 2000. Tenchi, originally inspired by the fast rhythms in San Jose Taiko's piece, "Free Spirit," features drummers playing high pitched shimedaiko and low pitched chuudaiko, thus inspiring the name. This piece features fast hands, precise motions and improvisational solos.


Three Rabbits

Joel Balestra

Three Rabbits is inspired by Japanese tales of the moon rabbit. Three rabbits (the oodaiko players) chase each other and dance as they pound mochi (the oodaiko).


Joe Kimura and Hiroshi Tanaka

Tobihi means "leaping fire." It was composed as a fast, fiery wrapper around powerful solos for two players on the oodaiko, or large taiko. Note how the fire of this piece leaps from one side of the drum to the other.

Tsurugi no Mai

Robin Yang

Tsurugi No Mai depicts a dance or duel between swordsmen. Robin Yang drew her inspiration from her brief exploration of Wu Shu and daydreams conjured from the occasional martial arts film.



Folk Song

When an old man begged for food, a rabbit offered his own body and threw himself into a fire the man had built. The rabbit, however, was not burned. The old man revealed himself to be the Sky God and, touched by the rabbit's virtue, drew the likeness of the rabbit on the moon for all to see.

Yose Bayashi


This is a bayashi or folk-style song. It was taught to us by Keiji Uesugi of Yoki Daiko at a collegiate taiko invitational. This is a piece written mostly for fue, the Japanese flute, although it also has kakegoe and other fun elements. Listen for this from the dashi at the annual Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden.


Leonard Eto

A fun and popular piece, Zoku means "group or gathering" in Japanese. We learned our version from Kaiju-Daiko in Chicago, who learned it from Kodo during a workshop.