DRUM TAO's Drum Art
Combining the Japanese art of taiko drumming with contemporary costumes and choreography
DRUM TAO has entertained over 7 million people in 500 cities in 23 countries, performing at 120 locations around Japan every year. The wadaiko (Japanese drum) troupe combines the artistic visual elements of a Cirque du Soleil show with the dynamic energy of a rock concert performed with traditional Japanese instruments. The group reflects Japanese tradition through music and dance, while incorporating Maori, Korean and Indonesian influences, and mixing traditional Japanese songs with modern compositions created by members of the troupe. In addition to taiko drums, TAO uses other instruments including the shinobue (Japanese flute), bamboo marimba, gongs and the koto (horizontal harp).
With nearly 40 performers,TAO’s roots trace back to 1993 in Aichi Prefecture. Making its international debut at the 2004 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the group played at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and has headlined shows at arenas in Taiwan. In 2012, the world-acclaimed fashion designer Junko Koshino collaborated with TAO to unite fashion and entertainment, creating breathtaking beauty through her futuristic ensembles.
The performers are highly trained athletes whose daily workouts run from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. The training consists of a 20-kilometer run, martial arts training, and calisthenics along with dance, drum and music practice. They are not considered ready for the stage until they have completed three years of training. The troupe’s founder, Ikuo Fujitaka, eased the demanding training regimen after 400 trainees ran away during the first decade, reducing the dropout rate to 40 over the following five years.
In 2016, TAO made 45 “Drum Heart” performances in 35 cities in the U.S., five in three cities in Canada and four in Singapore. Performances are lined up for the rest of the year throughout Japan.
The group aspires to open TAO theaters in major cities to spread wadaiko culture around the world. tj
The complete article can be found in Issue #278 of the Tokyo Journal. Click here to order from Amazon.