The Orion

Japanese drummers represent cultural rhythm

Sarah Scharf

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A TAO drummer gives his all at the beginning of the show Friday night at Laxson Auditorium.Photo credit: Chelsea Jeffers


Hands and sticks became blurred as drummers shouted back and forth with the rhythm, beating their drums with dizzying speed and precision. This was the overwhelming effect of Japanese taiko drumming.

TAO: Phoenix Rising took the stage on Friday Night at Laxson Auditorium.

The show opened with tranquil flute music and beautifully lit forest scenery.

A woman in a flowing white kimono glided onto the scene like a spirit, capturing the audiences attention.

Then came the first slow, deliberate drumbeats, setting the scene for the amazing drumming to come. The spotlight revealed the solitary drummer, with his back to the audience, beating a giant black and white drum.

Overhead lights revealed the muscles in the drummer’s back flexing with each beat as he began to drum faster and faster, sticks flying. He was then joined on stage by about ten other drummers in black and white costumes and their sets. Together, they created a rhythm so dynamic it was truly awe-inspiring to hear and see.

The performers continued to amaze with act after act of drumming with precise movements and perfectly timed collaboration.

The mood of each act varied from extremely intense and almost warlike beats to beautiful, relaxing music with flutes and stringed instruments to playful, upbeat and even comedic tunes.

Who knew that a drumming performance could be funny?

In
one act, three performers played a hilarious
monkey-in-the-middle game with sound. They used small brass cymbals
and pretended to pass the sound to each other and fight over who
could catch it. Audiences could envision the sound flying through the
air as the performers tossed it to each other, all while creating yet
another incredible, rhythmic performance.

The performers in TAO are more than just drummers. Their performance required an
amazing level of physical stamina and showmanship. They worked with a variety of drums and other instruments to create a cultural
music experience like no other.

In addition to blowing the audience away with their music, they added to the live experience by interacting with everyone, making them laugh and even playing games.

The audience had the pleasure of experiencing the drummers own personalities, which created a really fun connection that made the actual performance so much more entertaining.

Indeed, it is the drummers themselves that give life to the show. It was apparent from the huge smiles on each of their faces that they are passionate about what they do, and that they have a great time working together as an ensemble.

This was not the first time that the Phoenix Rising group had wowed audiences in Chico.

“I saw it a couple years ago and I had to come back and see it again,” said audience member Karen Peacock. “They’re so incredible.”

Peacock’s daughter Bre agreed.

“They’re smiling wide the whole time, Bre Peacock said. “They make me feel buoyant!”

Performances like this are fun because they bring a little piece of culture that otherwise might not come to Chico, said Stephen Cummins, director of Chico Performances.

“There’s something about percussive arts and drumming that spans every culture, so I think the audience just really has an affinity for it,” Cummins said. “I think it’s really exciting that we’re able to provide an experience that some people may not have necessarily had.”

TAO: Phoenix Rising provided a truly unique and exhilarating experience. It was a taste of Japanese culture that audience members of all ages thoroughly enjoyed and won’t soon forget.

Sarah Scharf can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.

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Japanese drummers represent cultural rhythm