Tokara
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Tokara

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"Tenchi Shinmei"

Rarely has there been a performance of any kind infused with so much furious joy. Tenchi Shinmei (Spirits of Heaven and Earth) is a joint performance between Tokara, a taiko drumming group, and members of the Rivelta ensemble. The result is a series of pieces, some modern, some traditional, which see the power of the taiko drums balanced by the quiet grace of the koto and the Japanese flute.
Some of the taiko-only pieces are overwhelming. The choice of St John’s as a venue comes into play here, as the church’s acoustics result in the whole venue shaking with the sheer power of the drums. The performers throw themselves into the pieces body, heart and soul, leaving the audience both moved but also wondering how they can keep up that pace. There is so much raw energy exuding from the stage it is impossible not to be swept along for the ride.
Art Lee, the leader of Tokara, takes some time to explain the history of taiko and to introduce the members of his band. His manner is warm and his nature playful as he encourages the audience to clap or even dance along. But the moments filled with the most drama are those which see the drums rise slowly from a steady pulse back to a furious thunder. Absolutely stunning. - Hairline


"Edinburgh Fringe Review"

Although two-thirds of them don’t look it, taiko drum group Tokara are based in Japan.

Group leader Art Lee is the only non-Japanese drummer to win Tokyo’s prestigous Odaiko championships, and his skill shines in this performance in the beautiful surroundings of St John’s Church.

After a short explanation of the origins of taiko, Tokara proceed to fill the church with the heart-pounding rhythms of the Japanese drumming art. From the playful beats of energetic fast pieces to the mighty pounding of the giant odaiko drum, each piece is excellently performed by the trio and transfixes the packed audience filling the pews.

Tokara aim to take original classic Japanese drumming and add their own twist by presenting the pieces as songs: each with a structure, refrain, chorus and finale. This works well, and the rhythms they conjure up from the various-sized and pitched instruments they use is powerful, emotional and – most of all – joyous. - Edinburgh Spotlight


Discography

Existension - Art Lee - 2006
Michi no Sekai E - Tokara - 2012 (coming soon)

Photos

Bio

Wadaiko Ensemble TOKARA was founded on March 7th, 2004 in Nagano Prefecture, Japan by Wadaiko Artist Art Lee, who brought together various taiko and percussion group members to begin the challenge of intensified training of the mind and body in the strict discipline of the taiko. Since then TOKARA has become a strong force in the world of Wadaiko (Taiko Drumming) both in Japan and internationally.

While incorporating arrangements of traditional Taiko pieces into their performance, Tokara has created an all new style of Taiko, where speed and power meet eloquent movements of dance and the circular fluidity of the Chinese martial arts and aikido. Tokara’s new style of Taiko music also brings rhythm styles from other cultures around the world including Tam Tam and Samulnori. Since the groups inception, Tokara tours three to four times a year in Asia, the U.S., various countries in Europe, Australia, and India, as well as making regular appearances at some of the top Taiko performances all over Japan.

In addition to international touring, Tokara has created a unique education program of bringing Taiko enthusiasts and groups to Japan for various types of training. The group annually produces the Saiwai Shimoina Wadaiko Festival, as well as two award-winning intensive education programs; the INADANI Taiko Drumming Course for beginners and the TOKARA Wadaiko Bootcamp for intermediate/advanced practioners.
Tokara is currently touring their newest production, "Tenchi Shinmei" with 60 concerts in Japan and Europe.

TOKARA Artistic Director/Composer/Performer, Art Lee, is considered to be one of the leading Taiko artists of his generation. In 1994, he was invited to join one of the world's most famed Taiko groups, Za Ondekoza. He has performed in some of the world's most prestigious theatres including Aoyama Gekijyo and Suntory Hall (Japan), Tonhalle (Germany), and Carnegie Hall (New York).

As a soloist, Art has won the Unique Prize for Skill and Artistry at both the All-Japan Wadaiko Contest in Fukui Prefecture and the Kumamoto Odaiko Championships.

In November, 2001, Art Lee first received international acclaim for becoming the first person in the world to be awarded an artist visa from the Japanese government to teach Taiko and lead the life of a professional Taiko artist in Japan.
Then again on October 15th, 2005 for becoming the first non-Japanese to win First Place in the Solo Odaiko section of The Tokyo International Wadaiko Contest—the most prestigious and renowned Taiko contest in the world.

Art tours the world both as a solo artist and as the artistic director of Wadaiko Ensemble TOKARA. He is also the founder of Suiko and Nadeshiko taiko groups, and the festival group, Haruka.