Reviews of shows from the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts and other local venues published by the Los Cerritos Community News. The writer and paper are in their twentieth year of covering these events.

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Location: Fear City, Ca., United States

"My name is Addison DeWitt. My native habitat is the theater. In it I toil not, neither do I spin. I am a critic and commentator. I am essential to the theatre - as ants to a picnic, as the boll weevil to a cotton field." George Sanders in "All About Eve"

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Yamato October 8, 2011

    Yamato Takes Cerritos to Another Drum Level

                                               By Glen Creason

   Happily, Saturday night was time for Taiko again in Cerritos, the Japanese art form that is one of the most invigorating methods of creating music found on the planet. The music is played almost exclusively with substantial and expertly crafted wooden drums of various sizes from small to just awesomely huge.  The actual instruments date back almost three thousand years and have been used for everything from court music to encouragement to battle for troops in feudal times. I could go on giving the names of the various sizes of drums and the other instruments that compliment this style of music but this is one of those experiences that when you are sitting in an audience you feel it right through your body with an exhilaration that is rare in a concert hall. Yamato, a group from Japan founded in the 90’s visited the Performing Arts Center on this early fall weekend and took Taiko or  Wadaiko to just another level. This young and electrifyingly energetic drumming juggernaut had all the cylinders firing at maximum rpm for two seemingly short hours that defied human stamina and stretched the art of percussion to the limit.
      There was no messing around as the opening number “Akatsuki” featured ten drums and an equal number of busy musicians raising pulses with flying arms that became blurs below sweetly smiling faces. They used several kinds of sticks to strike the skins stretched over these drums ranging from what appear to be drumsticks to thin, flat unfinished boards to long kendo swords that are all wielded with precision and incredible harmony with the other nine or ten drummers playing along with them. Through the following four more pieces; the women and men of Yamato played to extremely demanding levels without faltering or even looking fatigued. They played in counter-point to each other but never seemed to be competing but only driving each other to higher heights. In “Muga Muchu” the huge drum created tones that shook the back walls of the theater but the following number used kotos and six smaller drums to reach nuances of Japanese classical traditions.
     Yamato played standing over drums, standing in front of drums, sitting with legs wrapped around drums and even carrying them by straps that they used to manipulate sound in ways that a stationary object could not do. The group opened the second half of the performance with “Ucho-ten” that gave notice that there was to be no let-up of energy   with one of the rare solos was undertaken by the amazing lead drummer (founder and director: Masa Ogawa) who true to the ensemble nature of the show is not singled out in the program. All eleven members truly were excellent in performance and really appealing in their obvious joy at playing this music.  Japanese harps were used in one piece along with cymbals that were rung with some whimsical effect in a game of catch with musical notes. The seriousness of the art that must require rigorous training and rehearsal was always tempered by a playfulness that showed the passion the group has for Taiko. The finale, “Gamushara” and an encore were just pure, joyful, free-form celebrations with the audience joining in giddy, rhythmic clapping and foot stomping followed by a completely organic and well deserved standing ovation.


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