Taiko groups throughout the world are perceived as performing an established style of ensemble drumming grounded in an imagined Japanese tradition (Bender 2012; De Ferranti 2006). Since its inception, however, taiko has been a cosmopolitan musical movement in constant flux, combining diverse sources in innovative ways (Pachter 2013). Review of scholarly debates on genre, Japanese music, and the flexibility of taiko, reference to globally renowned performers, and ethnographic research with contemporary groups in Kyoto reveals that the complicated nature of taiko may defy any categorization, in turn challenging established understandings of genre itself (Holt 2007), while affirming that we nonetheless rely on such systems of organization to make sense of musical worlds.

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