Kazakoshi (Mountain Wind)

Wadaiko Tokara

C too

From 01 August 2013 to 26 August 2013

Rating: ****

Review by Catherine Lamm

Wadaiko Tokara is a very seasoned taiko group with a long history of international touring.  

For those unfamiliar, taiko are the group of drums most associated with the ancient Japanese community which is highlight by the Samurai culture and created originally for communication, to set the pace for marching armies and to frighten the enemy. These drums range from the small, portable variety to the large ones that look like they could hide a small community of drummers inside, made of different woods and tacked to the body or lashed with rope and usually played with straight wooden sticks.

In any form or size, when handled professionally they are very impressive. Mostly drums, occasionally groups bring in masters of flutes and some stringed instruments. Training is obviously long and precise focusing on the formality of this art form and a reverence for the history and training; one feels like one is in a religious ceremony.

Predominately and historically a masculine group of musicians, the women, although still in the minority, take no back seat these days. Taiko groups range from the small with less rigid or formal performances to the larger groups, usually with very precise and elaborate choreography and sometimes accompanied by other musicians.

Tokara which means “from afar”, was founded by Art Lee, a gentle, soft-spoken black man, born in Sweden who grew up in the United States. Mr Lee has the distinction of being the only person in the world who has ever been awarded an unsponsored artist visa by the Japanese government to be a professional Taiko Artist. He is also the only non-Japanese ever to win First Place in the Tokyo International Taiko Contest. He lives up to this reputation.

With him are a Greek born Canadian and two Japanese drummers. So they truly are “from afar”. The group calls Japan home and has performed in Edinburgh Fringe on numerous occasions. In years past they have performed as a much larger ensemble and with masters of other instruments.

The audience is offered descriptions and demonstrations as well as being invited into the production. There is the formality of the reverence that they have for the culture and the art while at the same time enjoying themselves, the music and the audience. If a little loud for this space, this is another taiko group suited to a young audience.