Tao: Drum Heart Is a Powerful Synergy of Japanese Drumming and Movement

Courtesy of Tao: Drum Heart
The ancient Japanese art of taiko drumming is coming to Miami with the group Tao: Drum Heart, which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and has gone on to tour internationally while getting an extra boost with an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Sponsored by Culture Shock Miami, which provides $5 tickets for students aged 13 to 22, the visually and acoustically mesmerizing group will perform Friday, March 16, at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center.

Taiko refers to a broad range of Japanese percussion instruments played by an ensemble, often including martial arts-style choreography. The performers are both musicians and dancers, and the movements tend to be hard and fast, with the performers aiming to form a connection between the drum and themselves using four principles: attitude, music, technique, and energy.

Taro Harasaki, a musician and performer with the company, recently spoke by phone with New Times about the production, traditional Japanese instruments, the training of the performers, and costuming.

New Times: Tell us in more detail about the performance.

Taro Harasaki: All the performers are musicians, drummers, dancers, and singers. We mainly use Japanese types of drums in the show, along with the Japanese three-string guitar, harp, and bamboo flute — but mainly drums. The performers compose the choreography. We do modern drumming using typical instruments. It’s full of energy and entertainment. There are 17 performers and some martial arts aspects in the show, including karate. This production started in Japan in 2016. The North American tour started the end of January 2018.
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Courtesy of Tao: Drum Heart
What goes into the training of the performers?

We are based in Japan on the top of a mountain — very isolated, surrounded by nature. People say Tao Drum is living on the edge of civilization. All day we practice, rehearse, and train. Japanese drum is very loud, [so] we can’t train in town. [But] we have all the modern conveniences: Wi-Fi, a theater, huge gym hall, a bar — a modern, comfortable lifestyle.

Who designed the costumes?

The costumes were designed by Junko Koshino, a famous Japanese designer, and they are a fusion between modern and classic. They are based off the kimono in weight and texture, but the design is [a mix of] modern and traditional. They are basically black and white with some colors such as red. [Koshino] is known for her couture designs, with an emphasis on the aerodynamics of sports, and applying these principles to her technology-aware garments and costumes.

What should the audience expect of the experience?

The audience should expect a lot of energy and... a lot of entertaining performers onstage. They will feel the vibrations of the pounding of the drums. It can be very soothing. Japanese drumming is like the mother’s heartbeat to the baby in the womb: loud but calming.

— Diana Dunbar,

Tao: Drum Heart. 8 p.m. Friday, March 16, at South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, 10950 SW 211th St., Cutler Bay; 786-573-5316; Tickets cost $20 to $37.50 for adults or $5 for students aged 13 to 22 via
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