Universal rhythm party
Taiko drumming takes over Laxson audience
What happens when music is made of nothing but the sounds of percussion? Well, in the case of the Wadaiko Yamato Taiko Drummers, you get music that is just as stirring and emotive and varied as anything scored for symphonic orchestra.
Thursday’s concert at Laxson began with “Yakara,” a piece celebrating “the fearless rush into life of the young or newly born,” and featured all 10 members of the troupe playing an array of drums that ran the spectrum from large bass drums on stands with their heads facing the audience to small, very tightly tuned instruments that produced the intricate and nearly melodic dynamics of the piece. The precision of the playing combined with the symmetrical layout of the instruments on the stage also gave the performance a quality of dance, as the synchronized movements of the drummers produced complex patterns of visual motion as well as sound. The audience’s roar of approval at the end of the piece set a standard that only built as the concert proceeded.
“Rekka” was a piece for two drummers designed to draw the audience more completely into the performance. The first player entered the stage alone and played a simple, clap-along beat that was cheerfully taken up by the audience, then the second drummer came out and played a complex pattern that began a dueling-drummers competition that escalated to a tour-de-force of synchronized polyrhythms. And ended back at the simple clap along to the great satisfaction of all concerned.
Throughout the concert the troupe continually connected with the audience by way of body language and occasional bits of physical comedy that required no spoken exchanges to convey the moods of the pieces or the personalities of the players. The five men and five women who make up the troupe all displayed virtuoso technique on a variety of drums as well as a few stringed instruments, bells and small hand-held cymbals.
By the time the encore came around, after a long jubilant standing ovation, audience and orchestra were one vast celebration of rhythm.