The thrill of Japanese drums in Brighton show

Yamato drummers
Yamato drummers

Tradition, spectacle and athleticism, Yamato: the Drummers of Japan have got the lot. And the great news is that you can come to it totally unprepared and still enjoy a thrilling evening.

As Gen Hidaka, one of the performers, says, no preparation at all is necessary as far as the audience is concerned, ahead of the group’s date at Brighton Dome on February 15 (www.brightondome.org; 01273 709709).

“Yamato come to the UK every two years,” he explains. “We have been to Brighton Dome before and are looking forward to it.”

The show is built around traditional Taiko drumming – something Yamato were determined to preserve when they formed in 1993 while also setting out to explore new possibilities for the majestic instrument, the wadiako.

Perhaps more physically demanding than any other drumming style, performers must not only learn the traditional technique but also engage in an intensive endurance-training programme.

Gen enjoys the touring. No two nights are ever the same. The audiences and even the weather on the day will always be part of the response the show gets – and that is part of the fun and the challenge.

“But definitely the audience don’t need to know anything about Taiko beforehand.

“We don’t use any language in the show. People just understand what we do.

“Before I joined Yamato, myself I had no experience of Taiko.

“I joined Yamato when I was 24 years old and then started to learn. Before that, I was a college student in Canada, and at that time I was studying business management. This is quite different!

“But I had the opportunity to come to Switzerland. During the stay, it was my birthday, and my friend gave me for my birthday present a ticket to a Yamato show. At that time, I had no idea about Taiko drumming. My expectation was almost none before I went to see the show, but what I saw really impressed me. I still remember the day and I still remember the feeling I had. It was a really big thing. It was a really big sound, but it was more about the communication and the conversation, and the show made me feel proud as a Japanese person.

“I joined and it didn’t take very long for me to be able to go on stage as a Yamato member. After two months, I was already on stage. And I am not saying it was because I had a particular talent or anything. For a Yamato drummer, the most important thing is to be able to live together with the other members.

“The technical side and the drumming side of it comes after that. It is more important to be able to share a feeling of togetherness…”

Gen has been with the company now for 12 or 13 years: “I perform on stage but I do other production work for the company as well.

“ I live in the Netherlands at the moment, and we have got a Yamato school in the Netherlands. There are 200 Dutch people learning this type of drumming.

“But sometimes I go back to Japan. I was in Japan a few weeks back. We had a New Year performance in my home town.”

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