Feeling the beat: Japanese drumming troupe to perform at Eisenhower

UNIVERSITY PARK – At a “Yamato: The Drummers of Japan” performance, it’s not just about the musicians on stage.

The audience plays a part in creating the energy of the show, Masa Ogawa, the Japanese drumming troupe’s artistic director, explained in an email.

“Yamato is not just a drumming show. We can promise to you that the show will be the first experience of your life. You can join our show, drumming with us, exhaust all the energy, laughing together, and after then, you can feel the power of you,” he said.

Another energy-packed show from the group, which has visited more than 50 countries and performed more than 2,800 shows, is making its way back to the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State.

On its 20th anniversary tour, about 10 members of the 20-member troupe will perform “Rojyoh – The Beat on the Road” inside Eisenhower Auditorium on Tuesday evening.

“Our audience has always been very enthusiastic about the troupe, and we have regular requests to have them come back,” CPA Director of Marketing Laura Sullivan wrote in an email. “The Penn State students seem to really enjoy them as well. Their performance is great for all ages.”

Kimberly Powell, the faculty adviser for student organization Penn State Taiko Drum Club and associate professor of education and art education, saw Yamato perform the last time they came to campus.

“They are an energetic, spirited and athletic group of highly skilled players who have toured the world extensively,” she wrote in an email. “Their effect on an audience was powerful, as audience members felt compelled to move, smile and clap along to their rhythms, jumping out of their seats to dance toward the end of the performance.”

While here, the troupe will hold a drumming workshop with members of the Penn State Blue Band and the drum club, Sullivan wrote.

A family drum workshop with the drum club is also scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday on the Eisenhower Auditorium patio.

Members of the club will work with participants to “learn drum techniques, rhythm exercises and a song,” Powell wrote.

The workshop is open to all ages. No registration is required. The workshop will move to the Eisenhower lobby in case of inclement weather.

Powell will also host an “Artistic Viewpoints” informal moderated discussion at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Eisenhower Audiotorium conference room.

“My artistic viewpoints discussion will present an overview of the history and roots of taiko drumming in Japan and in the United States, as well as a discussion of the artistic conventions and practices that are involved in taiko drumming, such as rhythmic patterns associated with taiko ensembles and the choreographed movement referred to as kata,” she said.

During the discussion, Penn State Taiko “will perform rhythms, movements and a song segment, in order to situate the audience in the sound and style of taiko, so that they might better discern some Yamato’s performance techniques,” she said.

Although the Yamato performance is noisy, United States audiences have given back more, Ogawa said.

“We hope to exchange the energy,” he said, in part, of what he’d like the audience to experience.

Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.