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Taiko Legacy 11 by Tsukasa Taiko

• Taiko Legacy 11 by Tsukasa Taiko was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago on December 20 and 21. The taiko group has been trying to make taiko drumming into a contemporary art form while they maintain inherited skills and spirit. The stage at the Museum is a grand sum of Tsukasa Taiko’s artistry.

• Beating taiko with all their strength has been popular among people and also commercially rewarding. However, is the loud sound of taiko the charm of taiko drumming?
• Tatsu Aoki, Executive Producer and Artistic Director of Tsukasa Taiko said that invention and creation is born from skepticism.

• He said that he has encouraged taiko players to recognize taiko’s artistic reality in the contemporary Japanese musical experience, and they could be innovative in representing traditional authenticity.
• “Tsukasa Taiko’s vision is beyond the vogue and keeps tradition as the centerpiece in order to move culture forward,” he said in a welcome message for the concert. On the stage of Taiko Legacy 11, Tsukasa Taiko challenged the core Japanese aesthetic in taiko music by using grace. Aoki said, “The grace produces the real power and strength.”

• The concert started with classic piece of Hachijo. Hachijo Island near Tokyo was a maroons’ island, and the piece tells a story of samurai, who were exiled without swords. The samurai developed taiko drumming to represent the spirit of warriors. As a preface, bamboo flutist Hyakkyo Fukuhara and multi-instrumentalist and composer Douglas R. Ewart improvised a piece.

• The second performance was Yatai Bayashi, which was said to be 1400 years old. Tsukasa Taiko and Gen Ensemble of San Francisco collaborated on the choreography with taiko drumming.

• An impressive piece was Tsukasa’s original Tenchi, which was composed based on the image of Sapporo, where Tsukasa’s founder Hide Yoshihashi was born. Fujima Yoshinojo of Fujima Ryu of Chicago beautifully danced with a sword in her hand.

• In the fifth piece, percussionist Coco Elysses joined, and Eigen Aoki, Kioto Aoki, and Melody Takata performed De-a-i: The New Beginning. The central theme of power was represented by the quartet’s rhythmic intersections.
• Some other pieces were performed by Tsukasa Taiko.

• Between the pieces, shamisen master Chizuru Kineya, flutist Hyakkyo Fukuhara, and tuzumi (hand drum) player Takane Umeya performed Japanese classical music. The contrast between sedate tones and the taiko drumming sound was also impressive. The three musicians came from Tokyo to participate in Taiko Legacy 11.

• After the concert, Tatsu Aoki said that the members of Tsukasa Taiko worked very hard for a full year preparing for the concert. He also said, “The stage is only two-hours long, but they learned a lot of things through a year-long practice. In the art world, they have to work by their own hands step by step.”

• Chizuru Kineya has joined Taiko Legacy for several years. She said, “Every year, I’m looking forward to seeing Tsukasa’s hard work. I know how difficult it is to keep working hard. Takane had tears in her eyes when she saw their performance for the first time. By being absorbed in their play, I think that it creates fine performance.”

• Tsukasa Taiko was formed by Hide Yoshihashi in 1996 with the help of dance master Wakayagi Shiyu. The group joined together with Tatsu Aoki, Asian Improv aRts Midwest’s executive director in 2004 and became the resident ensemble of the Japanese American Service Committee in the following year.
• Tsukasa Taiko performs a wide range of musical styles including ozashiki (geisha chamber music), minyo (folk music), and ohayashi (Japanese theater music). Its performance has been recognized internationally, and the group played in Tokyo, Poland, Washington D.C., and San Francisco. It also appeared in Chicago Jazz Festival, Asian American Jazz Festival, Symphony Center, Harris Theater, and more.

The Tsukasa Taiko shows their artistic form of taiko drumming at the stage of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Percussionist Coco Elyses joined, and Eigen Aoki, Kioto Aoki, and Melody Takata perform De-a-i: The New Beginning.

Between the pieces, shamisen master Chizuru Kineya (C), flutist Hyakkyo Fukuhara (R), and tuzumi (hand drum) player Takane Umeya performed Japanese classical music.

Tatsu Aoki, Executive Producer and
Artistic Director of Tsukasa Taiko

Tsukasa Taiko performs “Tenchi” with Fujima Yoshinojo’s Japanese classical dance.