Event Review: Nagata Shachu 15th Anniversary Concert & CD Release

Nagata Shachu 15th Anniversary Concert & CD Release
Habourfront Centre
Nov. 22 & 23, 2013
Reviewed by Lise Watson

This was my first Nagata Shachu concert in several years, and it was an honour to be part of their 15th Anniversary celebration.   The fearless Kiyoshi Nagata and his ground-breaking Japanese taiko ensemble have come such a long way in these 15 years establishing themselves across North America as one of the best.

Taiko drumming is an ancient art form dating back some 4000 years. With deep spiritual connections, it requires tremendous discipline and physical endurance and is not for the faint of heart.

This celebration was perfect for showcasing the range of talents within Nagata Shachu, and it included pieces from several of the ensembles cds, including the latest, Hymus Road.  Although the taiko drums are the heart and soul of Nagata Shachu, other instruments are incorporated alongside to wonderful effect.  Akita Nikata Bushi, a traditional song played on the shamisen (a long necked 3 string lute-like instrument) by Aki Takahashi was exquisite in its complexity of technique and sound.  The shinobue flute solo by Heidi Chan was mesmerizing.  Koku, which features the huge O-hirado daiko is always a crowd favourite, and gives artistic director Kiyoshi Nagata a chance to play solo wearing a white fundoshi popularized by the famous Kodo Drummers.  It’s hard to take one’s eyes off Nagata in this piece as every single muscle in his body seems to make its presence known!

There were the usual shouts (kiai) which are an integral part of taiko in most of the pieces, but there was also some singing which I could not recall ever hearing at previous concerts. This is a nice addition to the repertoire.

A typical taiko journey takes you to a trancelike state by its conclusion, and this performance was no exception.   Similar to meditation, it takes few minutes to let go of one’s worries and to free our minds, and then it starts to do its magic.   I felt like I could float out of the theatre at the end.  I look forward to the next 15 years.

The concert also marked the release of the new cd, Hymus Road, the sixth for the ensemble. They also have two dvds available on their website www.nagatashachu.com

kaleidesope2   koku2

shinobue2  14akitanikatabushi2

photo credits: yosh inouye




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