Uplifting, mesmerising and therapeutic: This Japanese taiko drumming troupe made watching a bunch of people beat the living daylights out of some drums for two hours something I would pay to witness again and again.
What is taiko?
Yamato’s artistic director Masa Ogawa puts it like this:
“Taiko is a musical instrument deeply familiar to every Japanese. Since the dawn of history, Taiko’s rich reverberations have filled people with inspiration and encouragement in a wide range of settings. Its unmistakable sound is still heard throughout Japan today. To many Japanese people, the sonorous beat of Taiko is soothing, for it is the sound of Japan itself, resounding at Shinto rituals and festivals in every part of the nation.”
What did I think?
I went into this show with zero expectations, I mean it. I knew basically nothing prior to going in apart from that there was going to be drums involved.
So, honestly? I propose that you stop reading this post right now and just go see it for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
If you’re still here though…
At its very core, this was a music performance show and my god did they music and perform. Every note, every beat had me on the edge of my seat yearning for more. The taiko drums are obviously the main feature of the show but I was pleasantly surprised to also experience some gentle flute, ‘shamisen’ guitar-like instruments, ‘chappa’ symbols, with some stunning vocals and choreography to top it all off.
The audience interaction was impressive. I have never experienced a group of people so engaged with what was going on in front of them. Hanging off every beat, the audience could not resist the urge to slap their hands together in awe and appreciation.
Then in quieter moments the room fell silent, appreciating the gentle sounds of a flute player very reminiscent of what I (as someone born and raised in the UK) would associate most with traditional Japanese music. It was these moments that I found surprisingly therapeutic.
But in a flurry of energy, all of the players would come together filling what felt like all of London with their music. The passion permeated every corner of the room and I found myself thinking that the sound must be escaping into the outside world. It was so powerful I found it hard to believe we were the only ones experiencing it at that moment.
The players would shout, as if cheering each other on. Their support of each other was infectious and made us feel this connection of wanting the players to succeed. Wanting them to pour more into the music, hit the drums harder and release the energy that was aching from their bodies.
The whole show was also complemented by comedic relief which runs the risk of being a bit cheesy and awkward. However, this was NOT a problem here, the audience laughed, clapped and shouted at all the right moments and loved every minute of it. The atmosphere was infectious and I couldn’t see one person not absolutely enamoured by the performers.
I left the performance with a huge smile on my face, an abundance energy and an overwhelming urge to find some drums and beat the crap out of them!
This sounds awesome! When can I see it?
If you’re reading this after the 31st of March, unfortunately Yamato’s UK tour is now over. If you’re in The Netherlands though you’re in luck as they’re on their way there next!
They tour every year so don’t worry if you’ve missed them this time. Be sure to keep an eye on their website for future dates!