Drummers compliment Japan - Albuquerque Journal

Drummers compliment Japan

Japan’s TAO Taiko drummers are coming to the Lensic Performing Arts Center on Saturday. (Courtesy of Columbia Artists Management)
Japan’s TAO Taiko drummers are coming to the Lensic Performing Arts Center on Saturday. (Courtesy of Columbia Artists Management)

TAO Taiko drummers from Japan are honoring their nation through their latest production, “Phoenix Rising,” which will be presented at the Lensic Performing Arts Center on Saturday night.

“We call the show ‘Phoenix Rising’ because Japan is still suffering and not yet completely over the disaster of the 2011 tsunami,” said performer Taro Harasaki during a recent phone conversation. “We want to encourage our nation and energize them. We wish Japan to rise like a phoenix out of the ashes.”

A dozen male and four female performers are part of TAO’s touring company, which is traveling throughout the United States from early February through the middle of April. Everyone plays the drums. Some members play the bamboo flute, also known as the shinobue; the shamisen, a three-string Japanese guitar; and the 13-string koto, which is the national instrument of Japan.

Performers in TAO, who have to graduate high school before applying for training, must invest in a minimum of three months of intensive training to be asked to perform on stage. They are required to pass a stringent skill test within one year to be considered a junior company member. If they don’t pass the test, they have to leave the company.

Training takes place at a compound in the mountains of Japan in the Kuju area in Oita prefecture. A production office in Kuju runs shows inside and outside Japan. TAO has been appearing on stages around the world since 2004, although the company was established in 1993 and has performed throughout Japan for many years.

“We have members who have been with us for the past 21 years,” said Harasaki. “Our ages range from the 20s to the 40s.”

A TAO performance features a contemporary approach to the ancient art form of Japanese drumming and athletic choreography. The company’s colorful modern costumes have been designed by fashion designer Junko Koshino.

Performers within the ensemble have their own special talents. One is a rock musician, one is a gymnast and another is a composer.


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