Grandma has a marathon in Duluth, but unless you’re Japanese she probably didn’t have taiko growing up. If she did, she’d probably still be wowed by TAIKOPROJECT. This Los Angeles-based ensemble descended on the Ordway for several days to play for a few thousand eager schoolchildren and a full audience of adults. Playing taiko is a visceral, full-body experience; watching TAIKOPROJECT in action feels like being at the ringside for a mixed martial arts match. It’s kinetic, powerful, visually interesting, dynamic, and also very loud. If you’re the sort of person who wears earplugs to rock concerts (and really, everyone should), some earplugs were very much in order on Saturday night.
- Read the Arts Reader’s introduction to taiko.
When the largest taiko drums are pounded, the sound doesn’t just propagate through the air – it ripples through your body. Miking a drum and turning the volume up just isn’t the same: you can’t amp those really low frequencies if it’s not there. Earplugs might stop your ears from aching afterwards, but you’ll still feel all of that sound wave strike you…and that’s just to start.
Lest this seem like an evening solely composed of battering one’s senses into submission, the crowd at the Ordway was downright energized at intermission, and sufficiently riled up in the second half to bring the concert to a halt with a standing ovation with one piece still remaining. During the evening, there were pieces variously built around song, dance, flute duets, zither, and xylophones (in their respective Japanese incarnations0 – and around rippling muscles, highly choreographed exchanges, and entrancing rhythms.
Your grandma might not listen to taiko, but there were quite a few young and old bouncing in their seats at the Ordway on Saturday. That’s a bang.
Basil was named one of Musical America's 30 Professionals of the Year in 2017.