Powerful broad shoulders. Wielding large wooden mallets against massive drums, taiko performers are known across the world for their thunderous performances. The image of a taiko drummer is often a man. In fact, traditionally in Japan, only men or boys were allowed to play taiko. Yet, over the last 40 years, those powerful broad shoulders are those of women, we have flocked to this art and now make up 60-70% of taiko players in North America.
Taiko is thought to be reminiscent of a mother’s heartbeat as felt in the womb, and babies are often lulled to sleep by its thunderous vibrations. Women who are drawn to this beautiful and powerful art, become masters at playing it, and yet still are not included in the top levels of the art-form.
HERbeat follows women in the United States, Canada, and Japan, the top women in taiko, as they prepare to perform together for the first time as part of the Women in Taiko Project, spearheaded by TaikoArts Midwest. Following the globe’s top women taiko performers as they prepare for a groundbreaking performance at the Ordway Center for the Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota in Spring 2020, HERbeat is a cinema verite style documentary that will explore the lives of these women who are forging their own paths in taiko, family, and life.
Envisioned as a character-driven documentary, we will explore the lives of these women, utilizing this singular event drawing them together to look at themes of culture and what it is to be a woman today, while acting as a “gateway” to the beautiful world of taiko drumming. (Think Spellbound (award-winning documentary about spelling bees) for taiko drumming.)
Beyond being a compelling documentary that sheds light on the stories of women, HERbeat will also serve as a gateway to introduce taiko to countless new audiences and potentially the taiko performers of the future. It will also document the beginning of a movement from within the taiko community to be more inclusive of women.
Funded by Awesome Without Borders (October 2018)