Music and Dance Preview: TAO: DRUM HEART (International Tour)

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by Tony Frankel on April 17, 2018

in Dance,Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional,Tours


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.

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.

The best of this exciting entertainment is coming to SoCal next weekend, when the world’s top taiko ensemble, TAO, offers exhilarating concerts at The Broad Stage (April 28 at 4 & 7:30) and the beautiful new Musco Center for the Arts (April 29 at 4). Combining highly physical, large-scale drumming with innovative visuals and precise choreography by Franco Drao, and contemporary costumes by Junko Koshino, TAO’s latest production, Drum Heart, includes internationally acclaimed percussion artists.

In taiko, the drums range in size from roughly a snare drum (“shime”), to drums as large as a car (the “o-daiko”). The most common drum size in taiko is the “chu-daiko” which is the size of a wine barrel. One of taiko’s most defining aspects is its dynamic playing style. Taiko playing is loud, hard, and fast, and involves a lot of choreographed movement, which many identify with Japanese martial arts.

According 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.

photos courtesy of the company

TAO: Dream Heart
April 28, 2018 at 4 and 7:30 The Broad Stage in Santa Monica 310-434-3200
April 29, 2018 at 4 Musco Center for the Arts in Orange 844-626-8726
for more tour dates and info, visit Drum Tao

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