Bravo to the Museum of Contemporary Art for creating a performance space that is welcoming to the varied communities of Chicago. Yesterday’s sold-out “Taiko Legacy”--mainly Japanese drumming circles with added Japanese traditional folk music, Kabucki style dance and Geisha musical arts-- was such an event.
It was actually the 10th such event in MCA history and as emcee and founder of the ensemble, Hide Yoshihashi, put it, the community’s equivalent of a Nutcracker end-of-year tradition.
This was a very impressive showcase of student talent, with high precision coordination of drumming creating auditory and visual spectacle. Following the ancient traditions, drummers—both male and female—were in precise stance and held arms and drumsticks at choreographed angles in between striking the drums. Drums were of all sizes. Occasionally one of the troup would call out an instruction to the group. It was a particularly lovely reminder that this was a family event when one or another toddler’s voice in the audience seemed to chime in.
The performance also included a broad range of musical styles, Including ozashiki (geisha chamber music), minyo (folk music), ohayashi (classical/folk/theater music) styles.
One piece, “The New Beginning” was a collaboration between Korean artist/composer Dohee Lee and taiko musician Eigen Aoki. While there may be geopolitical tensions with historic roots in the way of Korean-Japanese relations this performance speaks to arts ability to transcend such forces.
Rousing as each piece was, the grand finale “Kaiha 2013”, featuring the entire ensemble of that day’s performers, kicked up the energy yet another notch further.
If you are curious about cultural traditions from around the world you will find many performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art like this one that opens a new window on global cultural expressions. For a calendar of events in 2014 visit the MCA performance pages on their website or call 312 397 4010.
Photos: from prior year Taiko Legacy 9, taken by Ken Carl