Tao: Drum Heart — Powerful Synergy of Japanese Drumming and Movement
The ancient Japanese art of Taiko drumming comes to Miami this Friday, with Tao: Drum Heart, which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and has gone on to tour internationally, getting an extra boost with an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Sponsored by Culture Shock Miami (meaning $5 tickets for ages 13-22), the visually and acoustically mesmerizing group performs Friday at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center.
Taiko refers to a broad range of Japanese percussion instruments characterized by an ensemble playing on different drums and includes martial arts style of choreography. The performers are both musicians and dancers and the movements tend to be hard and fast, with the performers aiming to form a connection between the drum and themselves using four principles: attitude, music, technique and energy.
We spoke by phone with Taro Harasaki, a musician and performer with the company – about the production, Japanese traditional instruments, the training of the performers, and on costuming.
Tell us in more detail about the performance
Harasaki: All the performers are musicians, drummers, dancers and singers. We mainly use Japanese type of drums in the show, along with the Japanese three-string guitar, harp and bamboo flute — but mainly drums. The performers compose the choreography. We do modern drumming using typical instruments. It’s full of energy and entertainment. There are 17 performers, and some martial arts aspects in the show, including karate. This production started in Japan in 2016. The North American tour started the end of January 2018.
What goes into the training of the performers?
We are based in Japan on the top of a mountain; very isolated, surrounded by nature. People say Tao Drum is living on the edge of civilization. All day we practice, rehearse, and train. Japanese drum is very loud, we can’t train in town. [But] we have all the modern conveniences: Wifi, a theater, huge gym hall, a bar — a modern comfortable lifestyle.
Who designed the costumes?
The costumes were designed by Junko Koshino, a famous Japanese designer, and they are a fusion between modern and classic. They are based off the kimono in weight and texture, but the design is [a mix of] modern and traditional. They are basically black and white with some colors, such as red. [Koshino is known for her couture designs with an emphasis on the aerodynamics of sports, and applying these principles to her technology-aware garments and costumes.]
What should the audience expect of the experience?
The audience should expect a lot of energy and … a lot of entertaining performers on stage. They will feel the vibrations of the pounding of the drums. It can be very soothing. Japanese drumming is like the mother’s heartbeat to the baby in the womb. Loud but calming.
Tao: Drum Heart, Friday at 8:00 p.m., in collaboration with Culture Shock Miami at South Miami -Dade Cultural Arts Center, 10950 SW 211 St., Cutler Bay; tickets $20-37.50; $5 tickets for ages 13-22 via www.cultureshockmiami.com ; www.smdcac.org.