With a shout and a thudding downbeat, Nagata Shachu Japanese Taiko and Music Group began its performance on Sept. 29.
A traditional Japanese music form, Taiko refers to one or more people playing one or more large daiko drums. Nagata Shachu breathes new life into this ancient art and seeks to bring the enjoyment of Taiko drumming to the masses.
Based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Nagata Shachu is one of the premiere Taiko groups in North America and has been performing since 1998. Nagata Shachu tours the United States and Canada.
The group is one of the only performing Taiko groups sponsored by four major daiko producers in Japan. In this eleventh year of Nagata Shachu, it has expanded its studio and is constantly innovating and creating new music.
The ensemble performed 13 songs and an encore. Twelve of the songs were original compositions by members of the group, while two were traditional Japanese songs arranged by group members.
Performers Scott Jusano, Aki Takahashi, Angela Colangelo, Nick Shao and Miki Kato, along with founder and artistic director Kyoshi Nagata, are internationally acclaimed for their creative and broad repertoire, as well as the sheer physicality of their performance. A large part of the performance of Taiko involves coordinating movements and dance, which along with the drumming, left the artists breathless after many of their sets.
From the beginning of the 110-minute performance, the drummers’ energy infected the audience. Many tapped their feet and found it hard to keep from chanting “hai” along with the performers.
Sophomore Cody Greene came to the performance because he is currently studying Japanese.
“I’m digging it,” Greene said. “I’m going to Japan during Winter Term. It’s really exciting to get some of that flavor before I leave.”
While some of the songs were composed, many featured an element of improvisation. Members would create a simple rhythm while a soloist improvised on a large daiko, sometimes pounding out a harsh beat and sometimes tapping a subtle cadence. All group members would eventually come together in a unified pulse.
The numbers varied from fast and pounding to slow and haunting. The music was infectious, even chilling.
In addition to the requisite daiko drums, Nagata Shachu featured three different types of bamboo flutes, a shamisen (similar in style to a banjo, but with only three strings), hand cymbals called chappa, gongs and vocals. The drummers were all multi-talented, sometimes even switching instruments in the midst of a performance.
Most of the songs were related to the natural world: weather, animals and the cycle of life. All of the sets were moving.
Nagata Shachu exited to a well-deserved standing ovation.
Sophomore Kelly Zug came to the event with Greene.
“It’s very thrilling,” she said. “I was really tired when I came in, but now I’m really pumped up. It’s awesome…I had to take my pulse after one of the songs.”