Ok! Here is my critique of the second half of the concert. I wish I had done this earlier, as the details keep getting hazier and hazier, but I will try to remember the important points.
The first piece of the 2nd half was a piece called “Onidaiko”, which featured two dancers with crazy demon masks. I honestly don’t remember much about this piece, besides the crazy way they would suddenly jerk their heads to the side. It looked somewhat unhuman and…great! Toward the end of the song, they were hitting the drums with their fists, and eventually they took off their masks, and the song somehow transitioned into the next song. Somehow! I think flutes were involved?
The next song was super cool! Called “Tsukimachi”, it translates as “waiting for the moon”. This piece is based on the famous “Hachijo Daiko” from Hachijo island. But their incarnation was more true to the original style than the Hachijo that Kenshin Taiko plays. This piece was written by Tamasaburo Bando and Shogo Yoshii. It had Bando’s hallmark of being a little too sprawling, but I could get over it because I really liked the piece! Yay them! I can’t remember why…hmm…maybe this blog post is going to be short…maybe because all the parts kind of connected a bit better, and there was so much fun energy!
Oh yeah, gripe time. So I liked the piece, but unfortunately it featured everyone wearing these bright, cellophane-looking, different colored pants. I didn’t like them because I don’t like different things! But at least it was introduced well, because before the piece, some people came out and were wearing traditional clothes in the style that these rainbow pants were to be worn in. And I admired that it was the ONLY piece that I noticed had weird outfits, which I thought showed a lot of restraint on the part of Bando, who historically goes bananas with glitter and bling and hair gel and fabulous outfits. TOO fabulous. So I wanted to mention that all the outfits in this concert were very tasteful, and even if I didn’t care for the brightly colored pants in this one song, I still really enjoyed the piece.
My other gripe! I thought it would have been obvious! It kind of shocked me that they didn’t do anything about it. At one part during the very substantial “Tsukimachi”, these folks with little wooden Buddhist clackity-clack things came out (I think of them as Buddhis claves), which was cool and they did some nice things with them, except one thing: playing in unison! They were playing in unison as background for a solo, and it was just too loud and piercing and really unpleasant and I couldn’t quite tell what the soloist was playing. It would have been so easy to fix. Just have them play quieter, or have only one or two play the background. Problem solved!
But things I liked: this piece had lots of ladies playing taiko! They came out and would take front and center and play these really graceful solos in these beautiful kimonos that was just terrific after all the heavy, wide-stanced men had been playing so intensely. But the energy was still so well maintained.
The other big, big thing I liked about this song was it was the first time we got to see the famous Yoshikazu Fujimoto! So this guy is about 60 and has been playing taiko since he was just a young scamp, and the way he played was just beyond belief. Before he came out, everyone had been playing very seriously and hard and with pristine form, and then Fujimoto literally comes dancing out, stomping around as he gets ready to play, and he takes on a solo with this wild, monkey-like form. He had such great energy and presence, he seemed to fill up the entire stage. As soon as I saw him, I realized “so THIS is why he’s so famous!” This piece also saw the return of Eichi Saito, and I remember watching him during the climactic finale of the piece, and how he played so energetically, but also with a lot of maturity and grace. It was very non-pretentious, and focused, and…so nice! I loved watching him play.
So the next piece was the famous O-daiko solo. For this concert, instead of having one soloist go all out for 15 some-odd minutes, we were treated to I think 5 shorter solos. And the first up was Fujimoto! His solo was my favorite. The way he played was like there was a near tangible feeling between him and the drum. The way he stomped, hissed, and yelled through his solo, and played with just everything he could…so dramatic! So exciting! It’s everything I love so much about taiko! The quote that came to mind was “this one goes up to 11”.
The rest of the solos were quite nice, with little flutey interludes between them. Although some of the other solos were more powerful than Fujimoto’s, and of course they were amazing, but they just didn’t match what Fujimoto put into his solo.
Finally, the last piece was Yatai Bayashi. My favorite! They arranged it a bit different from usual, where they only had two drums for people to sit at instead of three, and there were four drums on odaiko stands on the sides. I was skeptical when I first saw it, but I ended up actually really liking this arrangement! I was worried when the sit-down drummers would play, there wouldn’t be enough sound, but the four side drums were mixed in well to give more shape to the sound. It really worked out well, and the sit-down drummers played as hard and intensely as they could (as they should for Yatai), and…yeah, I was very satisfied!
Then there was a fun encore with okedaikos (lighter taikos that the players can carry and dance around with) that I remember almost nothing about. And then I clapped and left. What a good, good concert!