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The Taiko drum group “Yamato” was in town last week. Not only did I go see the show, but I was able to work it out with the production manager so that I was allowed to shoot the show as well.

Full show review after the jump. And what a show it was. If you have never seen Taiko, you have to. It’s a very intense experience. Some of the drums are so large and their sound is so deep that you don’t necessarily hear the sound they produce, but you definitely feel it. The show while obviously revolving around percussion didn’t grow monotonous.

The show was a delicate and perfect balance of intensity, serenity and humor, taking the audience on a 90-minute emotional journey. Looking back, I do wish that the journey had led somewhere. I prefer music that tell stories through it’s composition, and I found that lacking here.

Somehow that didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the show, I give credit to the moments of sheer hilarity from Tetsuro Okubo who, at many points was the life-blood of the entire show. I was consistently impressed by his ability to instantly shift from a foolish persona to absolute focus.

The chemistry between Tetsuro and Marika Nito was wonderful as they played the roles of what can only be described as siblings vying for the spotlight. Each performer consistently raising the bar for the other.

The most interesting thing of the night was the modern take on the Shamisen.

In the beginning, it was just as serene and classic as I expected, but then Saori Higashi took to playing it a bit more like a rock guitar. If you had described this to me before I saw it live, it probably would have made me wince. I love traditional Japanese music just as it has always been, and to some extent it feels like blasphemy when it is altered. This was tasteful and skillfully executed, I wish I could complain about it, but I can’t. It was beautiful.

Overall, the performance was outstanding and I would highly recommend this group to anyone who has never experienced Taiko before. My only real gripe is that many of the “sketches” were things I had seen from other Taiko groups before. I would have liked to see something different, even if it was just a different slant on those already existing ideas.

Still, do yourself a favor. If you ever have the opportunity to see a Taiko group perform live. Do it.

Nothing Compares.

Check out more photos from the show here


David Bickley, Professional Photographer