August 2009 Featured Artist: Portland Taiko
Web Site: http://www.portlandtaiko.org
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As old as the hills and as fresh as the clatter of a busy city sidewalk, Portland Taiko’s Rhythms of Change takes you where your ancestors were and where you hope your children will arrive.
Somehow, they feel like the same place. Portland Taiko’s third release is an exciting mix of ancient Japanese drumming and complex contemporary rhythms. You can feel it in your blood: the exultant rush of something new. This is Japanese American music, based on the heartbeat of the old ceremonial drums but bringing them brashly into the 21st century. Echoes of jazz, world beat, Japanese folk, Celtic lament, vocal counterpoint, chant, European symphonic music and Kronos-style contemporary composition bubble in the blend. It’s the sound of today’s Asian America. It’s the sound of a future that remembers its past as it invents itself on a new continent. The drums are the core: the giant odaiko and hide-stretched nagado of the old ceremonies. Add the clangs, scratches, rattles, rubbings, whiskings, battings, whips and whooshes of other rhythm instruments and you get an urgent, interlocking wave of sound. And not just percussion: melody and harmony, too. The variety of tones these drums can achieve is profound and astonishing, and it elevates Portland Taiko’s sound to total music. Riding above the wave of the large ensemble and dancing through it are Teresa Enrico’s birdlike flute, Keiko Araki’s high-flying violin, and the haunting back-and-forth singing of Toru Watanabe and artistic director Michelle Fujii. Feel the pulse. It feels good. Real and vital. Raw and refined. A rhythm of change on the pathway to a new home.
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