It began with a thump thump thump.
The sound from a little drummer boy cross-legged on upper stage right. Spot light on him. The audience silent and in eager acquaintance. It looked so simple, yet no matter how simple it might have looked, the energy from this person, the boom of his drumming, and the faint concealment of the drums by the translucent inner curtain garbaged any idea that this show was a show of “little drummer boys and girls.” This was Drum Tao, the world-renowned Japanese drum show that has performed all over the world. Naturally, a few seconds later, I found my jaw on the floor.
I’ve never seen a drum show in my entire life. I’ve seen drummers in bands, in musicals, on TV, and in the movies; but never like what I just witnessed tonight. Tonight, drumming was an elevated form of art that’s almost spiritual. As my companions and I were quipping, “this is the cultural version of Stomp.” This one is more dramatic and elegant. Oh boy, it was!
It was basically two hours of epic company drumming… stylized but not overexaggerated drumming. Beautiful drumming…. here and there some flutes and that Japanese guitar…a dash of martial arts, a pinch of comedy, a heapful of well-toned bodies, mixed together with a generous serving of fun that takes you deep into a lovable part of the Japanese culture.
Watching this show made me realize a few things. One, the Japanese did everything with a surge of energy that comes from within. In theater-speak, every movement had tension. But their tension was a more complex tension because it didn’t appear as though they were “performing…” they had a sense of fun while doing it but at the same time it was so disciplined and precise. Sorta like watching martial artists who have sticks on their hands and are “hooo-waaaah-taaaah-ing” the drums in front of them.
Two, “simple” is not in the vocabulary of Theatre. The stage has the ability to transform even a simple act of hitting a drum with sticks into an artform that envelops and somewhat elevates the mind and body, creating an uncommon yet natural experience for its audience. (At one point in Act II, I was moving my upper torso to the beats). Of course, the Japanese have always been known to be minimalists, yet even a small flick of the wrist as the hand holds a fan, creates a startlingly beautiful spark of a moment.
Three, art is beauty and art creates beauty. The world needs art. I need art. Tons of ideas flew to my head, fond memories were enlivened, only within a 2-hour show.
And four, to get killer abs and killer arms, ditch boxing and switch to drumming. Haha. I kid.
Catch Drum Tao in Manila from July 12 to 15 and July 19 to 22 at the Newport City Performing Arts Theater, Resorts World Manila. Tickets are from 1000 to 4,500. But I recommend the PHP2,500 seat number 37 (center)… best seats in the house for this show.
A huge thanks with a bearhug to Ms.Ivanna Aquiling of Briggy Hall for giving us tickets. And a shoutout to Ms. Leny for remembering me and inviting me. I did need a huge dose of art in any form after working in this new industry I’m in.