“Member Martin Doyle would launch himself high in the air, hitting the ‘Odaiko’ with a robust baseball bat, in which the audience would literally feel the ground shake.” – AMY MOORE
Following on from last month’s extensive interview feature, GTW were lucky enough to attend a local performance by the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers at the Key Theatre in Peterborough.
The Key Theatre is concealed on the outskirts of the town centre, and stands alongside the old football ground, which tonight housed a vibrant fayre. The venue is easy to access on foot, with a small car park located directly opposite. My colleague and I were seated one minute before the performance was due to commence, so there was little time to admire the neat display of drums on stage as the lights started to dim. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers – all I knew was that I loved their image and what they represented.
Influenced by the ancient art of ‘Taiko’ in Japan, the performance was what you made it. I felt mildly intense, as I was consumed by the hounding of the drums. The ‘Odaiko’ – meaning “big drum” – would ripple through the body, mimicking an effect almost reminiscent of heart palpitations. Towards the end of the performance, member Martin Doyle would launch himself high in the air, hitting the ‘Odaiko’ with a robust baseball bat, in which the audience would literally feel the ground shake. It thus became a physical experience for the audience, as well as the players.
Showcasing a combination of old and new pieces, the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers saw a gentle, darkened opening, as percussion instruments sang to subtle beats, before erupting into a full-blown energetically choreographed performance. I was shocked at how well the members kept time with each other. Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers had an intimate ensemble of six people, with founding member Neil Mackie instantly recognisable on the ‘Jiuchi’ – the base beat or underlying rhythm to all 14 pieces played. He also courtesy provided commentary, which helped the audience to further understand and gauge with each performance. My preferred performance was called Ikkyo, which means “one vibration” – one of Mugenkyo’s first compositions from 1994.
Three freakishly masked figures illuminated by an enchanting blue light dominated the stage, holding tassels that danced in the dark to the beat of the drums. A frequent injection of comedy added more variety to the performance. The member with the most memorable stage presence was Miyuki Williams, with her uncannily enthusiastic energy reverberated by an occasional chant. She has recently returned to the troupe, touring for the first time in three and a half years. Never before had I seen such a tremendously positive audience reaction, all raised as they proceeded to shout for more. The Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers returned to the stage to perform an unscheduled piece, which did even better to showcase their talent.
For more information on the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers and for further information regarding upcoming tour dates visit www.taiko.co.uk