Author: Suse Coon

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Tuesday, July 9th, 2013 at 12:23 pm
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Music Reviews

Mugenkyo Drummers – Eternal Return

If you have never heard the sound of Mugenkyo Taiko drummers before, you might wonder why you should buy a CD or DVD or pay a lot of money to go to a show that just features drummers. If you have heard them before you’ll be jostling for first place in the queue.

It’s not what you’d call a foot tapping rhythm, more a knee thumping head shaking body jerking reverberation that takes over your whole body, arousing emotions you can’t understand, joy, sadness, hope, war and peace and leaving you breathless. Your body can’t help but respond. How do they do it?

Let’s go back 20 years to a time when Neil Mackie and Miyuki Williams travelled to Japan and met their inspirational teacher Masaaki Kuramaya Sensei, an expert in  traditional Fukei drumming who also pioneered a modern reinvention of the Art by his imaginative collaborations with other performers, both Japanese and European. On returning to the UK they founded the first professional taiko drumming group in Europe and established a base near Strathaven, the Mugen Taiko Dojo. Since then they have taught many people to work and love the drums as well as establishing themselves as highly entertaining performers.

In Shintoism, life works in 20 year cycles, with the destruction of the grand shrine in a ritual that signifies a return to the beginning with a reinvigoration of the spirit. How apt then, that in 2012, their 20th year, they toured in Japan, teaming up with their master, and at the end of the year Sensei came to join them in concert in Glasgow. This CD is called Eternal Return, and captures him on a recording for the first time. Flautist Nobuko Miyazaki joined them for the tour, performing on both the western flute and and shinobue bamboo flute, which has a particularly ethereal, haunting character.

The energy that goes into these performances is awesome and athletic, particularly when playing more than one drum and can feature anything from 2 – 20 performers, playing a range of 4 main taiko drums from the small high-pitched “shime” drums to the huge “odaiko” big drum, played by Neil Mackie. The choreography, dramatic lighting, and a variety of colourful costumes make their performances highly visual.

Eternal Return is their fourth CD and features a mix of traditional Fukei drumming, recorded live at 2012 concerts, combined with collaborations like the fascinating Alchemy, which blends taiko, flute and electronic wave drum. But as you will have gathered, the DVD is well worth the extra.

Once they are available on Amazon we’ll link here.

Check out the Mugenkyo website for current tour dates including the Edinburgh Festival.

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