One Voice performing with Mu Daiko last week as part of their annual school tour OUT in Our Schools. Photo by Brian Geving.
April is Taiko Month in the Twin Cities. In the aftermath of World War 2, U.S. servicemen stationed in Japan encountered kumi-daiko, a modern performance art using traditional round Japanese drums (taiko) and jazz aesthetics. This dynamic twist using old instruments soon found its way into traditional Buddhist and Shinto shrines, into more than 8,000 performing ensembles in Japan, and across the Pacific Ocean. Kumi-daiko remains strong in Japan, but on North American shores has continued to evolve into its own distinct flavor, referred to simply as “taiko” or “daiko.”
There are several taiko ensembles in the Twin Cities area, but this month features two special performances:
- A combined engagement of One Voice and Mu Daiko (an ensemble founded in 1997 by Mu Performing Arts’ Rick Shiomi) on April 16 and April 17.
- A visiting performance by TAIKOPROJECT (an LA-based ensemble founded in 2000) at the Ordway on April 23.
TAIKOPROJECT shot to international fame in 2005 when the ensemble won the Tokyo International Taiko Contest; the LA-based group has since performed with Alicia Keys, John Legend, Usher, Kanye West, and Stevie Wonder.
The One Voice/Mu Daiko team-up is called Queer Thunder and features four commissions by female Minnesota composers, including the world premieres of Our Phoenix and When Thunder Comes by St. Olaf College graduate Mari Esabel Valverde, plus commissions by taiko drummer Heewon Lee (a former One Voice member), and Catherine Dalton (a current One Voice member).
So what does Taiko look like in action?
Preview the Queer Thunder concert:
One Voice Mixed Chorus and Mu Daiko perform on Saturday, April 16 at 7:30 PM and Sunday, April 17 at 3:00 PM at Hopkins High School Auditorium.
TAIKOPROJECT performs on Saturday, April 23 at 7:30 PM at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts.