Photo couresy of TaikoProject Facebook Page
TaikoProject performances combine music, acrobatics, dance and constant action.

By Marcy Stamper

Taiko drumming is a centuries-old Japanese art form, but the Los Angeles–based TaikoProject imbues it with an energy and vitality that are thoroughly contemporary.

TaikoProject was formed in 2000 by a group of young taiko drummers who were interested in creating a truly American style of taiko.

Since then, they’ve been introducing their synchronized percussion and dance to audiences around the country — which will include the Methow Valley, when Methow Arts brings the group to the Winthrop Barn on Saturday (Oct. 14).

TaikoProject blends traditional taiko with an innovative and fresh approach to the Japanese drum. For centuries in Japanese culture, taiko drums have been used on the battlefield, as ceremonial music in the imperial court, and in religious rituals.

In the hands — and bodies — of TaikoProject, taiko becomes an exuberant fusion of dance, acrobatics and vocalizations, where the performers sprint from one drum to another, combining choreographed movements with vigorous and graceful percussion playing. They whirl and gyrate and pound drums with an infectious energy, so it’s no wonder that their art has been described as “thundering music and spectacle.” Their drums range from the size of a snare drum to some that are as big as a car.

In taiko drumming, the performers are not merely using the drum as an instrument, but they are also making a connection between the drum and themselves through four principles: attitude, kata (form), musical technique, and ki (energy).

TaikoProject has appeared on stages around the world — and in a dizzyingly diverse array of places across the American cultural scene. They’ve performed on the Academy Awards and the Grammy Awards, on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and the X Factor, and even on Iron Chef America and in a car commercial.

They’ve also played and recorded with musicians including Stevie Wonder, Usher, Alicia Keys, and Kanye West, as well as musicians from Greece, Brazil and the Netherlands.

Their innovative approach to taiko has been recognized with several awards. In 2005, they were the first American taiko group to win the prestigious Tokyo International Taiko Contest, eclipsing all the competing Japanese ensembles.

They won the Visionary Award, which recognizes the achievements of individuals who have raised the visibility of the Asian Pacific American community through their art, from East West Players, a theater in Los Angeles.

Through Methow Arts’ educational program, all students in the Methow from kindergarten through eighth grade will get to watch a special performance by TaikoProject on Oct. 11, where they’ll also learn about the drums and the history of taiko. The group also performs in five other school districts around the county.

TaikoProject’s drums will reverberate throughout the Barn on Saturday (Oct. 14) at 7 p.m. General-admission tickets for adults are $16 in advance and $19 at the door; $7 for ages 5 to 15 (in advance and at the door); and free for kids under 5. Free tickets are also available for clients of Room One and The Cove.

Tickets are available at Methow Arts in Twisp, Riverside Printing in Winthrop, and at brownpapertickets.com. Reserved seats for all ages are $25 and can be purchased through the same outlets.