Monday, April 05, 2010

Up the Beat: Kenny Endo and Friends at the JACCC

This Saturday, I reaped the benefits of hanging out in Little Tokyo. I had fallen in love with the Japanese culture back in the '90s, visited several times, and enjoy eating sushi with friends. I figured that I would eventually move on to other experiences, but the great performances at the JACCC/ Aratani Theatre have helped to renew that love.

Ending the week-long celebration of the JACCC's 30th Anniversary was again another performance that exceeded expectations. I saw a short performance by Kenny Endo at the 30th Anniversary Gala on the Tuesday before, and was ready for more. While I enjoyed J-pop and anime when I was in Japan, I have really taken a liking to the traditional culture while in the states. So, of course, I was expecting a traditional taiko drumming concert on Saturday. Boy was I wrong - and happily so!
The concert did start out with a traditional set by Kinnara Taiko, but it wasn't simple drumming. During the song "Samsara", which is the cycle of life, death and rebirth not just in a lifetime, but in a minute, an hour, a day, the drummers were spinning around each other in complex moves while staying on beat. I was hungry for more.

The next set had contemporary pieces with the On Ensemble, and a world premier of "Pono", an Odaiko (that's the HUGE taiko drum) and piano duet that was simple and moving. Truly beautiful! In between songs, we would be treated to flute music by Kaoru Watanabe and even a Shakuhachi (another type of Japanese flute) song that could have taken me back to Kyoto.

After intermission, we were treated to an elaborate stage setting in which the drumming was enriched with Koto music from June Kuramoto and a special Pipa (a Chinese banjo) performance from Wu Man. It was a full-on concert more than I was expecting, and something I'm beginning to realize is a quite the norm for performances at the JACCC/Aratani Theatre.

The concert ended as it began, with the Kinnara taiko coming out doing a traditional rice harvesting dance that reminded me of such humorous dances done by Japanese co-workers and friends at cherry blossom-viewing parties. (Yes, the Japanese sure do know how to entertain!)
So... when's the next show! Check out upcoming events at the JACCC.
-Tiina Vuorenmaa

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