Los Angeles Music/Concert Preview: TAIKO NATION (hosted by TAIKOPROJECT at the Aratani/Japan America Theatre)

Post image for Los Angeles Music/Concert Preview: TAIKO NATION (hosted by TAIKOPROJECT at the Aratani/Japan America Theatre)

by Tony Frankel on July 16, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles


Ever since man could bang a stick on a rock, percussion has been a way for humans to express themselves. From the battlefield to the theater to your teenager’s bedroom, percussion has evolved from communicative and ritualistic purposes into an art form. We take for granted the use of percussion—primitive, industrial, deafening, and exciting—in modern music, but it’s a fairly new phenomenon. In the early 20th-century, it seemed that there were few innovations left to squeeze out of harmony and melody and that only rhythm could express the energy of the machine age. Thus, from George Gershwin to Tan Dun, percussion has become a mainstay in modern compositions.

TAIKOPROJECT - photo by Soupy Bouasaysy

As a result, percussion shows from Stomp to Blast have taken the world by storm. Even taiko, once known as a broad range of Japanese percussion instruments which had existed for centuries, began to move from its roots in traditional settings in festivals and shrines to ensemble playing in the mid-20th century. One form is the kumi-daiko style, which features ensembles made up solely of drums. Literally meaning “drum,” taiko is not just known as instruments; it refers to the thrilling, heart-pounding, mind-blowing, and joyous performances of thunderous sound and stunning, stylized choreography.

Taro Kobayashi - photo by Ayako Takano

The best of this exciting entertainment is coming to L.A. this weekend when the world’s top taiko ensembles and performers converge on Little Tokyo for an exhilarating three-concert event called Taiko Nation, July 19 and 20, at the Aratani/Japan America Theatre.

TaikoOz - photo by Keith Saunders

This concert will include performances by TAIKOPROJECT (Los Angeles); Chieko Kojima and Eiichi Saito (KODO); Kaoru Watanabe (Sado, Japan); TaikOz (Sydney, Australia); Kagemusha Taiko (Exeter, U.K.); Taro Kobayashi (Tokyo, Japan); Sen-Rai (Sendai, Japan); and the “father of American taiko,” NEA Heritage Fellow Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka (San Francisco). These luminary drummers will share the stage for the first time, performing on the world’s largest drums and harnessing their collective passion and energy as one “Taiko Nation.” In addition to this stellar line-up, surprise guest performers will take to the stage for a bombastic opening collaboration and a spectacular closing finale.

Eiichi Saito - photo courtesy of the artistAccording to mythology, taiko music was created when a Shinto goddess emptied out a barrel of sake and jumped on the barrel’s head, stomping on it furiously to create compelling, percussive rhythms in her attempt to entice the goddess of sunlight from a cave where she had hidden. The other gods could not help but join in, dancing and singing joyously, and Amaterasu brought her light back to the world.

Hosting this blow-out event is Los Angeles-based TAIKOPROJECT, an ensemble of premiere taiko drummers dedicated to promoting and advancing the American art of taiko. TAIKOPROJECT has been dazzling audiences with its unique contemporary blend of taiko, storytelling, music and choreography. “It will be the first time so many taiko players from all over the world will be together in one place,” wrote project coordinator and artistic director Masato Baba. “It’s going to be amazing–and loud.”

TAIKOPROJECT is bringing together over 500 participants from taiko groups throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia, South America, and Australia for the inaugural World Taiko Gathering. Activities will include three days of workshops, discussion sessions, taiko performances, and community-building activities, highlighted by the Taiko Nation concerts on Saturday and Sunday.

photos by Soupy Bouasaysy, Keith Saunders, and Ayako Takano

Taiko Nation
presented by TAIKOPROJECT
in association with the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center,
Japanese American National Museum, and Southern California Taiko Community
Aratani/Japan America Theatre, 244 S. San Pedro St.
Saturday, July 19 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, July 20 at 2 p.m.
Sunday, July 20 at 7 p.m.

for tickets, call 213-628-2725 or visit www.jaccc.org
or more info, visit TAIKOPROJECT

{ 1 comment }

Anna Abrams July 21, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Will call needs major improvements! We waited 30 minutes to get up to the window. The slow process caused the delay of the performance by about 20 minutes (Sunday matinee). For us traveling miles by train to get to the show, this means we were unable to stay till the end of the performance for the “surprise guest” which probably brought the show to its climax. The 15 minutes intermission was longer. In any event, we reluctantly left the show early in order to catch our train. Very disappointing!

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