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Performers with Japanese drum ensemble play in Hawley, Moorhead

Performers with the Enso Daiko ensemble made tour stops in Hawley and Moorhead on Thursday.

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HAWLEY, Minn. — The first time Jeff Ellsworth and Craig Johnson experienced taiko drumming, they were interested immediately.

"I don't know what the heck I saw, but it was a I-kind-of-need-to-do-that sort of a thing," Johnson said. Twenty years later, Ellsworth and Johnson are both performers with Enso Daiko , an ensemble of ten members with TaikoArts Midwest, a Taiko performance nonprofit based in St. Paul.

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Craig Johnson, left, and Jeff Ellsworth are part of the ensemble Enso Daiko of TaikoArts Midwest based in St. Paul. They performed at Hawley Westgate Park on Thursday, June 9, 2022. Taiko is the Japanese word for drum. Johnson and Ellsworth learned Taiko after seeing it for the first time. "I don't know what the heck I saw, but it was a I-kind-of-need-to-do-that sort of a thing," Johnson said.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

For the people attending at Westgate Park in Hawley on Thursday, June 9, it was their first time seeing taiko drumming live. Taiko is the Japanese word for drum. Johnson told the crowd Taiko has been around for thousands of years, but it is a fairly new art form in North America.

Japanese jazz drummer Daihachi Oguchi in the 1950's started Kumi-daiko, the taiko ensemble. "He took the drums out of the shrines and out of the temples and festivals and put them onstage and made this more of a performing art instead of just a cultural or local celebration art form," Johnson said.

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Jeff Ellsworth, left, and Craig Johnson are taiko performers with Enso Daiko, an ensemble of ten members with the taiko performance non-profit, TaikoArts Midwest based in St. Paul, MN. They played five songs and answered questions afterwards at Westgate Park in Hawley, MN on Thursday, June 9, 2022.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

As part of the Enso Daiko ensemble, they work toward performing full, two-hour concerts, playing festivals and doing educational outreach.

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"It's an art form that is full of energy," Ellsworth said. "We try to show we have fun while we are playing since that's what all the hard practicing is for, is just to have fun while you're performing, and we hope that some people learn something about Japan at the same time."

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Craig Johnson answers questions after a taiko ( Japanese word for drum) performance at Westgate Park in Hawley, MN on Thursday, June 9, 2022.
Chris Flynn / The Forum.

The demonstration and Q&A was organized by the Lake Agassiz Regional Library through the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund. Ellsworth and Johnson also performed at the Moorhead Public Library Thursday.

Chris Flynn is an audio/visual journalist at The Forum. He graduated with a bachelor’s in online journalism from Minnesota State University Moorhead. Flynn has worked at Forum Communications since 2008.
cflynn@forumcomm.com

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