I wonder, is there a better way to show appreciation for an epic stage performance than a standing ovation? Because if there is, the enthralled crowd at the last showing of Drum Tao – Samurai Drum Rock would have probably done it too, and I would have joined in.
World-renowned Japan martial arts and drum-playing performers Drum Tao returned to Manila and brought the KIA theatre down, since its first showing on April 19, Thursday. This year’s performance was centered on the traditions and cultures of the ‘samurai’ or Japanese warriors. With an innovative Japanese contemporary production, a set design that transformed the theatre into the ancient land of the rising sun, and costumes created by one of Japan’s most highly acclaimed fashion designers, Junko Coshino, the audience was treated to world-class entertainment.
As soon as the curtains opened, revealing the athletic performers poised for a fan dance, the sonic surprises that followed were endless—and we didn’t want them to stop either. Beyond the musicality of the show is the remarkable athleticism of the performers, men and women alike, who exhibited impressive dance and martial arts skills. The Drum Tao crew is said to be spending eight months touring the world, performing in over 500 shows a year. Dancing and playing drums in perfect sync require disciplined training and hard work, which almost go beyond human limitation. Yet the Japanese drummers were able to deliver effortlessly.
After performing to audiences of more than seven million in 400 cities of 23 countries, the members of Drum Tao are undeniably in their best form of physique, too, notable for their core, shoulder, and upper body strength that were demonstrated mostly in scenes that required them to be in certain positions—just like when they were in a reclined pose, while playing heavy drums, without back support!
Drum Tao seems to have mastered the mix of mood that it wants to impart: the fierce thundering echoes of the wadaiko drums (traditional Japanese drum), and the sense of tranquillity brought about by kotos (Japanese harp), shamisen (three-string guitar), and shakuhachi (Japanese flute), along with many other Japanese instruments. The drummers were also able to insert comic relief as they intentionally made animated facial expressions while drumming, shown in the big screen of the theatre.
The overall impact of the breathtaking presentation—matched with a great direction of stage lighting—will certainly be remembered by those who were able to live the theatrical experience like no other.
By the end of the program, despite his obvious struggle to clearly deliver the message due to his mother tongue accent, Drum Tao’s lead performer expressed his gratitude. “Sana makabalik ulit kami. Mahal namin kayo,” he said, eliciting a loud cheer from the enthusiastic crowd.
Now tell me, is there a better way to show appreciation for an epic stage performance than a standing ovation? Maybe no other gesture can, but several standing ovations should suffice. On April 22, staging their last act, Drum Tao got their well-deserved two.