As a young girl growing up in Japan, Rieko Shimbo saw taiko drum music being performed, and she fell in love with it. She began her career with Araumaza, a professional taiko company based in Tokyo that performs folk music and dance in Japan.
Rieko moved to the U.S. in 1987 and to Reno in 1994. Two years later she formed Taiko Tsurunokai, her own taiko group. She began teaching taiko with a single drum that she made from a wine barrel, a hide, and some Japanese tacks. Today she has 8 drums and 15 students. They typically perform 12 or more times a year. The music they perform has evolved from regional styles of Japanese Music.
Performers wear traditional costumes. Background sounds are made with metal percussion instruments, a bamboo flute, and calls and responses between the leader and the performers. Typically the group performs at least three songs representing distinct geographical and cultural areas of Japan. Their jazzy songs derive from the culture of the Japanese islands where people have integrated taiko into everyday life and have developed a unique style. Other island-based music imitates the sound of the ocean’s waves. From the mountainous silk-producing region comes music played only during important cultural festivals.
Taiko has its own written music format much as melodic music does. But it’s different, and Rieko knows how to read it. Here is a sample:
The group’s name, Tsurunokai, means “gathering of cranes.” The image of this graceful and elegant bird symbolizes longevity and happiness. It permeates Japanese culture and art. The logo on the tail of Japan Airlines (JAL) we are all familiar with is a crane. It is called tsurumaru, or circle crane in Japanese. Taiko appeared long ago in Japan as an instrument for communicating with soldiers in battle. It was used for signaling attack, retreat, and regroup. Later, taiko became a fixture in religious ceremonies, kabuki theater, and folk music.
Taiko Tsurunokai performs for groups and for fundraisers. In September 2019, they are scheduled for
Trails and Vistas in Tahoe City 9/7/19
American Cancer Society 9/14/19
JDRF One Walk UNR 9/22/19
Osher Lifelong Learning Institute 9/27/19
To inquire about booking for your group, contact them at