YAMATO – the drummers of Japan
Japanese Taiko drummers “Yamato” was born in Yamato-no-kuni (country of Yamato), the present day Nara prefecture in 1993 by Masa Ogawa, and has its headquarters in Asuka village in Nara, which is known for many ancient monuments and named as the birthplace of Japanese culture. All started with our participation in a festival held at the Toichi shrine in Kashihara-shi, Nara. We played a piece called “Hyuga” which I composed. Then a newspaper journalist asked for our name for his article, and we didn’t have one. So I just said “Yamato” which just popped out of my head. “Sounds like a road-side cafe” was an often heard comment then, but the name has come to suit us. It just started as a one-off performance, but invitations from many places started to come in and now we run “round the world tours” with more than 150-200 performances a year everywhere in the world. The numbers in the members has grown from four to fifteen now, with both males and females.
2300 performances in 51 countries in the world
We went to China in 1994, just one year after we started, and had audiences of 20,000 for four performances. Then we toured other Asian countries including Indonesia, South Korea and Singapore. We had South America tours in 1997, 1998 and 1999, with each tour covering more than 10,000km. We started to perform at the Fringe of the Edinburgh Festival, the biggest art event in the world, in 1998, wanting to broaden our horizons and meet peoples. Twenty three performances were all sold out and we received the Spirit of the Fringe Award, the British media called us the “music of physique. With this festival as the springboard we started the "World tours".
Production of Yamato
The central to Yamato’s production is, of course, the Wadaiko drumming. We think of the sound of the drums, made of animal skin and ancient tree, some of which are more than 400 years old, as the pulse or the Heartbeat (Shin-on). The centre of life and the source of power, which pulsates within your own body. Like the strong and sturdy heartbeats of a lonely runner with pulsating sleek and powerful body. Yamato attempts to create the energy of life which envelops the audience and us. And what you fell when surrounded by the sound of Wadaiko, brought out by these highly trained bodies, is what Japanese call "Tamashy", which can be translated as soul, spirit, psyche and so on, which is the basic element of life. "This is something which is invisible and intangible but whose existence is certainly felt". The pulse, carried down from antiquity, should be resonating within all the bodies gathered at the theatre today. We want to create a stage production which is the celebration of life.