Thundering Japanese drum show takes Scottsdale stage

Japanese drum group Yamato will be in Scottsdale March 3. (submitted photo)

A dozen young, energetic drummers, all trained in the traditional Japanese art of taiko, will bring their spectacle to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts for two performances on March 3 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Based in the Japanese village of Asuka, where ancient palaces once stood, the members of Yamato train their bodies and rehearse their performances on traditional wadaiko drums, blending ancient and modern taiko drumming techniques to create a mesmerizing, rhythmic sound.

The musicians think of the sound of the drums as a pulse or heartbeat, the center of life and the source of power within the human body, according to a press release. As such, Yamato attempts to create the energy of life to envelop the audience and performers.

“Taiko’s rich reverberations have filled people with inspiration and encouragement in a wide range of settings,” Yamato Artistic Director Masa Ogawa said in a prepared statement. “We are committed to preserving its traditions and exploring new possibilities for this majestic instrument.”

Yamato begins its performances by striking a half-ton Taiko drum, made from a massive, 400-year-old tree, the press release stated.

The group describes its performance as “full of intensity” with “great originality and innovation.” This includes the evolution of Taiko’s “rules” to create more modern and physically powerfully performances while still maintaining a respect for tradition.

Among these changes is a break from Taiko’s patriarchal traditions to include women in the troupe.

The group’s newest program, Chousensha/The Challengers, takes its name from Yamato’s efforts to challenge the possibilities of Taiko drumming, matching the traditional focus on precision and skill with a modern emphasis on creativity and physicality.

For The Challengers show, the percussionists will be dressed in personalized costumes by international fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto, whose avant-garde designs have been worn by other performers, including Elton John and David Bowie.

The Challengers show was created to help the members of Yamato challenge their own limits and to offer an “anthem of encouragement” to all who face their own challenges. Yamato will present Chousensha/The Challengers at the Center’s Virginia G. Piper Theater as part of The Drummers of Japan World Tour 2017-18.

Yamato’s performance is part of the center’s Discovery Series, which offers an in-depth exploration of Japanese culture throughout the 2017-18 season, including live performances, films, education programs and other presentations.

These events culminate with the Yo! Matsuri Discovery Japan Festival from 6-10 p.m. April 6 at Scottsdale Civic Center Park.

Visit ScottsdalePerformingArts.org/event/yo-matsuri-discovery-japan-festival for details.

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