Shidara March 28, 2008
By Glen Creason
The Taiko group Shidara visited the Performing Arts Center on Friday and brought with them an entire region of Japanese history and folklore. Their show “Heart of the Immortal Mountain” is an attempt to preserve these ancient traditions of the bucolic region of Okumikawa with music, dance and the thunder of taiko, one of the most powerful musical forms on earth. They hail from the rural climes of Toei where they live and train together in complete dedication to this art. Shidara loosely translated means a group of people with a strong will to succeed and persevere. This they did and more at this weekend show with passion and intensity hard to match in other genres. The creative force behind the group is a woman named Chabo who composes much of the music, is the artistic director and performer. This is not music to be taken lightly and it requires complete dedication and exhausting rehearsal and preparation. The packed house at the Center met each segment with encouragement and great appreciation that drove the musicians to greater heights which sometimes seems impossible when all the drums are working together, the eleven musicians playing as one, all 3,000 pounds of percussion on stage at once .
The riveting “Murasamenone” opened the show with just two joyful ladies played small drums (shime-daiko) creating the sound of heavy rain in the forest. Many of the pieces mirrored states of nature with an underlying philosophical commentary connecting man to nature. This was especially evident in the fascinating “Kazenomichi” which followed the wind through grass and trees but suggested the quest of mankind making choices and following roads not taken. It began with just two flutes and built into a huge, percussive wave that engulfed the audience in contemplative, then elevated pulses. “Niebuchi” finished the first half with a truly grand finish, every drum driving in astounding synchronicity, starting like drops of water turning into a rushing river of sound that might uproot boulders along the river bed.
The second half alternated between these thoughtful pieces like “Koganenokaze” with the three “shakuhachi” flutes playing a haunting melody, conjuring up the fields ripe for harvest resting and waving in the gentle breeze and the wildly energetic “Hono Kuni” which brought into play the magnificent “odaiko” drum which booms a bass foundation that reverberates through the entire piece and auditorium. “Tonbi” had a completely mesmerizing sound following a hawk’s circles in the wind, riding around the concert hall on sonic path that was almost visual in its execution. The flute became the hawk’s path and the six drums in pristine harmony formed an entire sky of sound. The following “Hono Kuni” left the already fevered audience in a state of taiko-awe which continued for the final piece “Hana Matsuri” which recreated the harvest festival of their region and brought scores of delighted concert-goers up onto the stage for dances, drumming and wide smiles of taiko-joy. Shidara had indeed, brought the heart of he Immortal Mountain to a hall in Southern California as several thousand Americans stepped the light fantastic for a Japanese harvest in a Toei.