Spotlight: Yamato has a global heartbeat

 

Taiko drum troupe’s experience touring more than 50 countries shapes its energetic performances

 
 
 
 
Energetic taiko drum troupe Yamato,The Drummers of Japan, are at Queen Elizabeth Theatre Saturday. Photo: Hiroshi Seo
 
 

Energetic taiko drum troupe Yamato,The Drummers of Japan, are at Queen Elizabeth Theatre Saturday. Photo: Hiroshi Seo

Photograph by: Hiroshi Seo

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Yamato, The Drummers of Japan

Saturday, 8 p.m. at Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Tickets: From $33 to $115, showoneproductions.ca

Yamato’s performance at Queen Elizabeth Theatre Saturday night has been more than 20 years in the making.

The energetic show is constantly undergoing change and evolution, and touring more than 50 countries has played a major role in shaping the way the renowned taiko drum troupe presents its unique mix of music and theatrical arts.

The responses of global audiences ­— especially those from places with raucous sporting cultures — have proved to be an inspiration, a lively canvas from which the 16 performers learn new sounds.

Masa Ogawa, artistic director/choreographer of Yamato, said the group’s sound is evolving as its audience members grow in numbers, and tonight’s show is the culmination of each show that came before it.

“When we perform, there are usually some audience members from Japan or of Japanese heritage,” he said. “Their responses tend to be more quiet, but our performance in the United States, the feedback was very energetic. They showed us their excitement, and we were able to receive their energy.

“When we are in North America, we often go, ‘Wow, we can do this and the audience will respond in that way.’ This helps us create new music and sounds. We come up with many new ideas during these shows. We’ve been performing in North America for 20 years, and we really feel the audience here really helped us develop ourselves. Without this, I don’t think Yamato would be here the way it is today.”

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Yamato has energetic and choreographed drumming at its core, and performs on drums ranging from the size of a dinner plate to over one metre in diameter.

“We use traditional Japanese instruments, but our performance is extremely physical,” said Masa Ogawa, artistic director/choreographer of Yamato. “So I would say watching our performance is not like you are experiencing traditional music. Instead, it’s more similar to a Cirque du Soleil performance in terms of the energy level that you’ll see.”

Ogawa said the most accurate comparison for audience members may not be another music or dance performance, but watching a Whitecaps game, with the drumming building off of audience interaction and response in a constant, almost unbroken exchange of energy.

“(Watching Yamato) is like when you see a goal scored during a soccer match,” he said. “We are sharing our strength with the audience; we are shouting and dancing together. We may be performing, but it’s more of a sharing and interactive experience ... When we send out energy, the audience responds in the same way. If this interaction is not happening, the performance is not the way we want it to be.”

Saturday’s performance is the troupe’s first time performing in Vancouver, but Ogawa said the drummers are up for the challenge.

“The energy we receive from audiences when we travel overseas, we want to bring that with us wherever we go,” he said. “The places where we’ve been before, there’s some understanding of the audience, how the performance will be received. But when we come to a new place like Vancouver ... we know we have to do it right. We want to show what Yamato has to offer, and for people to experience it for what it is.”

Audience members need not worry about listener fatigue from hours of drums, Ogawa said the show includes instruments like the Japanese flute and the koto (a string instrument). He said that despite the show’s focus on energy, traditional Japanese spirituality is also a central theme, which the quieter instruments help to convey.

“I hope that we can unite with the audience ... through the performance,” Ogawa said. “I hope it provides the audience with some forward-looking energy. Whether or not we can create something like that together, that will determine whether or not we were successful as performers.

“It’s going to be our first time in Vancouver, so I expect there will be a lot of people who are seeing Yamato for the first time. Even for some who may have seen us before, I hope to show them something they’ve never seen or felt. If you are depressed or down, please come to our performance instead of drinking a Red Bull, or any other type of energy drink.”

chchiang@postmedia.com

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CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS, or tap and swipe the image on your mobile device.

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Energetic taiko drum troupe Yamato,The Drummers of Japan, are at Queen Elizabeth Theatre Saturday. Photo: Hiroshi Seo
 

Energetic taiko drum troupe Yamato,The Drummers of Japan, are at Queen Elizabeth Theatre Saturday. Photo: Hiroshi Seo

Photograph by: Hiroshi Seo

 
Energetic taiko drum troupe Yamato,The Drummers of Japan, are at Queen Elizabeth Theatre Saturday. Photo: Hiroshi Seo
Energetic taiko drum troupe Yamato,The Drummers of Japan, are at Queen Elizabeth Theatre Saturday. Photo: Hiroshi Seo
Yamato’s 16 members perform on drums ranging from the size of a dinner plate to over one metre in diameter. Photo: Lucienne van der Mijle
Yamato’s 16 members perform on drums ranging from the size of a dinner plate to over one metre in diameter. Photo: Lucienne van der Mijle
Energetic taiko drum troupe Yamato,The Drummers of Japan, are at Queen Elizabeth Theatre Saturday. Photo: Hiroshi Seo
Energetic taiko drum troupe Yamato,The Drummers of Japan, are at Queen Elizabeth Theatre Saturday. Photo: Hiroshi Seo
Energetic taiko drum troupe Yamato,The Drummers of Japan, are at Queen Elizabeth Theatre Saturday. Photo: Masa Ogawa
 
 
 
 
 
 
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