By Umer Nangiana
Entertaining audience with one of the oldest musical instruments from history, drummers from Japan created a mythical atmosphere with the beats of Taiko at the Katara Drama Theatre recently. Invited to perform at the Cultural Diversity Festival organised jointly by Unesco and Katara Cultural Foundation, the Japanese performer delivered a power-packed Taiko concert.
Taiko, Japanese drums with centuries of association with classical music tradition in the country, plays an important role in many local festivals across Japan. They also accompany religious ritual music as well.
It continues to be an integral part of Gagaku, typically performed at the Tokyo Imperial Palace in addition to local temples and shrines. One component of the Gagaku art form is traditional dance, which is guided in part by the rhythm set by Taiko.
And the audience at Katara amphitheatre swung with the rhythm created by Hibikiya, the group of percussionists from Japan.
“This drum performance is very amazing. It is actually the heart of Japanese people. In any village or small town, Taiko or the Japanese drum is one of the main prayers so it is the heart of the Japanese spirit,” said Shingo Tsuda, ambassador of Japan to Qatar, after the concert.
“It is very traditional in Japan, and the idea was to introduce it here to the people of Qatar. It is something that people here can relate to and they really like this kind of traditional music,” said Tsuda.
The ambassador said the Japanese embassy in Doha is planning to organise another festival in November this year, showcasing other Japanese drums and cultures.
Hibikiya Managing Director Namiko Sakai, who was also a performer, said they were excited to perform in Doha. “Today, we had seven members in the group performing, but two weeks ago in Japan, we had 40 perforers. In this performance, we did not actually introduce each and every item but we did perform some traditional items that have 450 years of history,” said Sakai.
Sakai said the one item was composed by masters and also featured some contemporary drums, especially the item where one player was playing three drums. This kind of music is everywhere in Japan, and for the festival they had to pick items from every part of the country.
“We started as a family group with my husband and my son. So when we started performing there were a lot of people who got interested. So now we have people from different nationalities and different age groups with us and I teach Tenko drum to people from the age of 2 to 70 years,” said Sakai.
“I have been playing Taiko for 20 years but this team is seven-year-old,” she added. The lead performer said the drums also were accompanied by Japanese flute, which always goes with the festival Japanese drums — if you go to these festivals, you will find people them it the whole day long.
“If I have to explain Taiko, a part of it is musical and a part is very physical like martial arts, [as can tell by] how at how we played. I used to do karate as well, so Taiko involves elements of music, martial and performing arts,” said Sakai.
They have performed in many countries, including India, Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, USA and Indonesia.
It was the group’s first performance in the Middle East and she said they enjoyed it. “This is such a nice place that we would want to come back here and today’s audience was very supportive and we really enjoyed it,” said the performer.
She added that she and her group of performers drew a lot of energy from the audience, which is required to pull off such a physical musical performance.
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