Arts

Ki: Feel the beat

Japanese drumming group explores the art-artist relationship

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The relationship between a performer and their art, or a musician and their music, is not easily definable. The dynamic is tailored to the individual and what resonates with them as they express their craft, whatever it may be.
Yet this relationship will be examined by traditional Japanese drumming group Kita no Taiko in its latest performance called Ki, a phrase that can describe many things, and is often used to express this complex type of art-artist relationship.

“Taiko is a very powerful type of music. The drums are very loud, so the pulses from the drumming resonate in your body and it feels like a group heartbeat when we all play together,” Kita no Taiko artistic director Carley Okamura explains, of the reasoning behind the performance’s title. “It connects the group members together. It connects us to our art because taiko’s not about music, it’s about music and movement and synchronization, so it encompasses a lot of things, and the effect you get is an emotional experience.”

For Okamura, who has been involved with Kita no Taiko for the past 12 years (the group itself has been around since 1986), the style of drumming allows her to combine music, physical activity and the art of dance. And while the performances aim to entertain the audience, they are just as much for the performers themselves.

“It’s for the musician, so you have to convey a certain level of professionalism and entertainment for an audience, but that means that you have to be really comfortable with your art,” she adds, emphasizing the relationship between a performer and their artistic practice. “You have to feel comfortable in front of people and performing at the level of your performance.”

But Okamura assures that regardless of a person’s cultural heritage or degree of involvement in artistic pursuits, they will be able to take something away from Ki.

“You might be surprised at first by the loudness of the drums—it’s incredibly loud—but we pair it with other instruments, other types of drums, so it’s not just overwhelming. We blend the sounds and so I think the audience will really connect with the experience of just hearing the drums because they are so loud and resonant and they really shake you to your core,” she says, adding the traditional Japanese costumes and sets add a striking visual element to the show’s sonic landscape. “I think it will be a new experience for audience members … and an entertaining one.”

Sat, Jun 14 (7:30 pm) and Sun, Jun 15 (2 pm)
Timms Centre for the Arts, $20 for adults, $15 for students and seniors

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