TaikOz tour Crimson Sky

Australia's world-acclaimed taiko drumming ensemble, TaikOz. Picture: Karen Steains.

Australia’s world-acclaimed taiko drumming ensemble, TaikOz. Picture: Karen Steains.

PASSION, joy and discipline radiate from each TaikOz artist throughout their performance of Crimson Sky.

When the rolling beat hits you in wave after wave to merge with the aural and visual dynamic of their performance, there is no other option but to surrender and be swept up in the glorious ride of the wadaiko. The powerful sound of Japanese drums evokes a sense of ancient tradition and culture as each performer navigates the stage in a spellbinding display of musical mastery and coordination. Frequently described as ‘thunderous’, ‘hypnotic’ and ‘stunning’, TaikOz lives up to the expectation conjured by past reviews.

At the half-way mark of an intensive two-month regional tour through NSW, Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory, the TaikOz ensemble returned to their Sydney base to recuperate and prepare for the next leg of the tour which starts this week.

TaikOz Associate Player Sophia Ang maintains a rigorous exercise regime that gives her the energy and focus needed to perform at the high level demanded for each show which is performed in two parts over almost two hours. The physical and mental stamina required is rewarded when people come up to her at the end to say how much they loved the show.

“I feel really focused during a performance. I love it,” she says and it’s obvious as you watch the performers silently communicate with each other through eye contact and “feeling the beat.”

When I mention my introduction to the visceral magic of TaikOz was the 2009 production of Pericles by Bell Shakespeare she says, “Oh yes, people still talk about that,” such was the success of that collaboration.

Ang was drawn to TaikOz not long after completing a Bachelor of Music at The University of Melbourne in 2008 where she specialised in percussion. In early 2010 she joined a summer camp with the Australian Youth Orchestra and met Ian Cleworth, the Artistic Director of TaikOz and former Principal Percussionist with the Sydney Symphony.

Outside of the rehearsal period Sophia Ang does four hours practice each day. Picture: Karen Steains.

Outside of the rehearsal period Sophia Ang does four hours practice each day. Picture: Karen Steains.

“Ian was the percussion group tutor,” Ang explains. “He brought a set of taiko drums to teach traditional [Japanese] pieces and had sent music to rehearse in preparation for the camp.” Cleworth had also brought DVD’s of traditional Japanese taiko performances, “and I found it so interesting,” she says.

Later that year, Ang moved from Melbourne to Sydney to study with TaikOz after a successful audition for the Individual Development Program. “I auditioned for the study program and just loved it, maybe because I used to do so much dancing,” she says of the years of ballet training she did while growing up. “It’s a percussion technique that requires you to use your whole body,” she explains and says that it is very different to the orchestral style of percussion that she had studied at university.

Now in her fourth year with the ensemble and a teacher at the TaikOz School in Ultimo, Ang supplements her performance and teaching income with a casual job that allows her the flexibility to take part in regional and international tours.

Crimson Sky features guest artist Satsuki Odamura who plays the koto and bass koto. Picture: Mayu Kanamori.

Crimson Sky features guest artist Satsuki Odamura who plays the koto and bass koto. Picture: Mayu Kanamori.

Last year she travelled with TaikOz to music festivals in Abu Dhabi and Japan and recently returned from a West Coast tour of the USA with stops in Hawaii, Sacramento and the first international World Taiko Gathering in Los Angeles which drew performers from the UK to South America.

The first half of the Crimson Sky program features works by Cleworth, Tom Royce-Hampton and Anton Lock while the 50-minute second half of the program was composed by Cleworth and inspired by a haiku written by Japanese poet Miura Yuzuru.

Red dragonflies…
…flowing like a ripple…
…toward the crimson sky

TaikOz travels to Port Macquarie, Lismore, Tamworth, the Gold Coast, Caloundra, Gladstone, Alice Springs and Darwin before returning to Wollongong in NSW for a final performance on November 1.

Refer to the website for tour dates. TaikOz.com

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