As the white fabric danced and swirled across the stage, illuminated in a UV light like some strange underwater creature or a wisp of smoke, I felt my eyes begin to close. The lilting sound of Nobuko Miyazake’s flute reached my ears and then there was a pause – before the walls and the floor of The Sage theatre began to throb in time with the taiko drums that filed the stage.
This tightly choreographed Tomoe piece brought to a close the first ‘darker’ half of the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers performance at The Sage on Sunday night.
The Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers are the UK’s longest established group and the only European touring professional taiko group.
The Wikipedia definition of taiko drumming:
“Taiko (太鼓?) means “drum” in Japanese. Outside Japan, the word is often used to refer to any of the various Japanese drums (和太鼓, “wa-daiko”, “Japanese drum”, in Japanese) and to the relatively recent art-form of ensemble taiko drumming (sometimes called more specifically, “kumi-daiko” (組太鼓)).”
The performance on Sunday night began with a piece called Belenos or ‘new dawn’ and took the audience on a journey which involved the middle-eastern jazz flute, an enormous gong and megaphone poetry that reminded me of the fantastic The The album ‘Mind Bomb’.
With dry ice, atmospheric lighting and Miyazaki’s ethereal flute playing, the sheer physicality of this form of drumming was cleverly emphasized. Yatai Bayashi, a taiko piece from Chichibu, featured an especially physically method of playing. The drummers lay on the floor, their drums held between their legs, and came into a half sit-up to play. The piece is traditionally played inside festival floats at the annual December night festival – hence the space saving position of the drummers – and the strength needed would have challenged even the strongest athlete.
From the Shichisan Stomp to Torodoki “rumble of thunder” the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers succeeded in their aim to ‘awaken and join with the spirit of their drums.