The Yamato Drummers of Japan are back in the UK with a twenty-date tour that opened in Bristol on 20 April. They offer a dynamic high energy drumming show that combines strength and skill with humour and showmanship. It’s a thrilling kaleidoscope of sound – and very loud.
Taiko drumming has been a Japanese tradition since the sixth century. In the feudal period in the sixteenth century they were used to set a marching rhythm for soldiers, communicate orders to retreat or advance and to intimidate the enemy. They’re traditionally used in shines and temples and in kabuki performances and Japanese classical music, but nowadays they’re most popular played by big drumming groups like the Yamato Drummers. There are over eight thousand taiko groups in Japan, and every group has its own distinctive playing style. Taiko drumming is catching on in the West too – you can learn taiko drumming in London if it takes your fancy.
Typically, taiko have a drum shell with heads on both sides of the body, and a sealed resonating cavity, but their size can vary considerably. Yamato uses more than twenty drums ranging in size from the size of a plate to the huge barrel-like Odaiko drum, over a metre in diameter, hewn from a single tree over four hundred years old. They’re combined with bronze cymbals, vocals and bamboo flutes to create a sound that is uniquely Japanese.
The Yamato Company was founded in Kansai in western Japan in 1993 and has built a worldwide reputation since, playing to over five million people in over fifty countries. They’re committed to preserving taiko traditions while exploring new possibilities for the instrument.
If you want to hear them you’ll have to be prepared to travel a bit as they’re not playing any central London venues. But you can catch them in Bromley on 6th May, Watford on 9th May or Wimbledon on 10th May. See their full schedule for other dates around the country.