The first thing that struck me at the concert, was the precision: Doors open at 2:00. Exactly. 2:25: the usual announcement (from what I could make out). Exactly. Show start: 2:30. Exactly. Tokara starts at 3:00; interval at 3:15. Interval 10 minutes; after 5 minutes the bell rings. Exactly, exactly exactly. Only for the encore everybody allowed themselves some more time. Let’s just say, this is not the Mugenkyo way … But it’s one of those moments where I feel at home in Japan. And: There is a clock next to the stage and visible throughout the performance. Just to make sure, I guess.
The concert itself was fantastic. Instead of keyboard, there was a violin this time, which blended into the group seamlessly. There were many outstanding moments in the concert:
- The first piece started with Yamada-san playing a flute he had made out of a pipe from Fukushima prefecture. It was clearly visible how one side had been bleached to almost bright white by the incoming tsunami wave (he let me try after the show).
- Hotaru Hibiki has always been one of my favourite Tokara pieces, and it was great to hear it live again, played with the usual Tokara energy.
- Nagisa monogatari, also a favourite, particularly reminded me of the good times when we played it together as encore on our joint tour in May 2016.
But the highlight of the concert was the duet of Art on odaiko and Yamada-san on shakuhachi. It was a version of Art’s fantastic odaiko solo 旭 (‘asahi’, rising/morning sun), which I also still vividly remember watching every night from the wings last May. (There a taiko-only version on the Tokara Web site.)
One of the major challenges I find in combining taiko and shakuhachi is to use each instrument with its own spacial characteristics: The taiko should not just be any drum and the shakuhachi should not just be any flute. To clarify: Before taiko I wasn’t interested in percussion, before shakuhachi I wasn’t interested in wind instruments (despite learning the recorder when I was 7). So, just playing a melody with an accompanying beat, yes, that can be … nice. But to me it’s not very interesting. That’s why this piece was exceptional: Two outstanding musicians using their instruments’ full potential.
After the show I just had enough time to chat a bit with Art, Yukari and Dean from Wadaiko Tokara and Yamada-san of Ensemble Liberta, before I had to get on the train back to Chichibu.