I jumped on the 1 train with Ryan and headed to the Taikoza Live show at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater Symphony Space, where we managed to snag some front row seats.
The performance began and my life was forever changed. Around ten musicians played a variety of percussion and wind instruments but the taiko – a large, tilted drum – was the star of the show.
The drummers played them in unison or solo and hit them with such power. But it wasn’t just about the rich sound – there was a visual performance too. The musicians swung the thick drum sticks around their heads, almost like brandishing swords in a duel, before striking the skins. It was really captivating to watch, like martial arts or a sort of tribute dance to the instrument. And the entire time the drummers – mostly women – would holler and grin.
They performed around 15 songs that showcased other instruments – a deep whispy flute made from bamboo (a shakuhachi) and higher pitched instrument more like a piccolo (a fue) – and costumed dancers.
Another highlight was a solo performance of the big drum. I’d never heard a sound like that before. When the drummer struck the middle it caused a deep growl that was so low and ominous that it seemed like a sound effect. The drummer could maintain this growl while hitting the drum nearer the edge of the skin for a faster beat at the same time. It sounded like there was a whole band playing.
The way the musicians performed showed a real appreciation for the instruments. They took an acknowledging breath before striking the skins and seemed to be working with the drums, rather than simply performing on them. The result was a fluid, impassioned performance.
Without a doubt, this is one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. Everything was a surprise and the grinning women hitting those drums with such conviction and joy seemed so badass. Definitely a reminder that New York’s talent stretches far beyond the usual go-tos, such as pricey Broadway or the Lincoln Center.