Although Taiko drumming is synonymous with Japanese culture, the musical legacy is believed to have derived from both Korean and Chinese culture. Introduced to Japan in the 6th Century, Taiko drums have taken on various roles; whether it be for communicative, theatrical, religious and military. The drum’s sound is unrivalled; a visceral, earthy instrument that is powerful and engaging enough to take centre stage. The Yamato Drummers celebrate the instrument’s earthiness in their eponymous hit show.
Boasting a rich 14 years of touring over 50 countries and having performed 3,500 shows, the Yamato Drummers have built up a respectable reputation as a troupe dazzling the world with the ancient art form. Artistic Director Masa Ogawa shares his passion of Taiko rhythms as the 9-strong ensemble uplift with complex sequences on an assortment of Taiko drums. The very first rumbling of one of the largest drums in the band is spine tingling, the evening’s tone is well and truly set as these tremblings are otherworldly. The evening is compiled of a series of segments, whether it be the male Drummers showcasing a selection of catchy rhythms, the female musicians showcasing their incredible Shamisen technique or the ensemble showcasing sequences in perfect synchronisity and this is joyous.
The evening’s accompaniment is the star of the show. What’s great is that there’s no attempt to interweave a narrative to give the instruments permission to be on stage, rather all of the musician’s enthusiasm is all the drama that is needed. The ensemble’s charisma speaks volumes, and yet there is a tint of modesty from the cast that only endears. The Yamato Drummers concern themselves with integrating the audience, and celebrating the fact that the theatre is a communal experience. We ourselves become musicians by clapping the rhythms of the drums.
The ensemble effortlessly perform these sequences, however it can be easy to forget just how much strength is needed to perform a 2 hour set. The cast remind us of their strength and agility by performing sit ups – over a platform edge whilst simultaneoulsy drumming and lifting the biggest drum of the set, whilst a cast member drums. The Yamato Drummers is a great show for those looking for a light hearted evening with effortless musicianship. The evening’s former half outshines the latter; the former hypnotising with exciting dark blue lighting and smoke, bringing the mysterious into focus. 3.5/5
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
The Yamato Drummers is currently showing at the Peacock Theatre until Saturday 25th March. For more information, visit here…