mm The big beat
Kenny Mathieson discovers the story behind the spectacular Wadaiko lchiro Drummers
Wadaiko means big drum. and lchiro is i the name ofthe leader of this ensemble,
but it also means hero in Japanese, and 'you have to be some kind of hero to
voluntarily undertake the job of playing
the massive 450-kilo monster which sits at the head of the fatnily of traditional Japanese drutns utilised by ensembles like Ondekoza, Kodo. and now the ten-strong Wadaika lchiro Drummers.
lchiro lnoue is the leader ofthis latest ensemble to visit Scotland. 1 discovered a little of the history of these particular ensembles in a three-way conversation between myself, the group's Dutch promotor, and its Japanese technical director. Yogo Hideaki.
‘Ondekoza were the original modern Taiko (traditional drum) group in Japan. The members of Kodo had been part of Ondekoza originally. before they set up their own group in the early 80s. lchiro lnoue joined Ondekoza in l986, and was their musical director for three or four years until he set up his own company. They did their first small European tour in 1992. and then an extended one in l993.‘
Unlike the Kodo drummers, who are the best known of these groups in this part of the world. lchiro‘s company contains women members, and is less formally ritualistic in its approach to the music they play. lnoue is constantly absorbing rhythmic influences from other sources. which are then absorbed
into the indigenous framework of his own music.
‘They don't really play the traditional Japanese drumming music. lchiro is one of the very few people in Japan who actually writes music for these drums himself, so they basically play
3 his numbers. Of course. they are based on the tradition. but the music itself is
‘Whenever we are driving in the car, he is listening to African music or South American tnusic or whatever, and his idea is to bring that all together, but always keeping his Japanese identity. The music is very typically Japanese, but when he writes he is inspired by other rhythms from all over the world, but always translated back into Japanese fortns.
‘lchiro‘s group are much more spontaneous and sparkling than Kodo. Kodo are very strict and disciplined in their music. and have a very straight way of performing it, while lchiro is much more playful. The music is all
Wadaika lchiro Drummers: thinking big written. so there is not much improvisation, except maybe in lchiro’s solos.‘
Exposure to the work of Kodo or percussionist Stomu Yamash’ta has accustomed Western audiences not only to the rhythms of Japan (and Wadaiko lchiro complement them with other traditional instruments. from gongs to wooden ﬂutes), but also to a marked degree of theatricality and visual spectacle within the performance.
‘Yes. there is a lot of physical movement when they play the drums, but in Edinburgh the show will concentrate on music. which is more appropriate for the tent venue we will be using. When they play in a real theatre. there is sometimes a bit more formal theatrical involvement. depending on the context of the show. It is still quite spectacular, though.’
I Wadaika lchiro Drummers Acropolis (Venue 26). 556 6528. 23 Aug—3 Sept, 5.30pm. £8 (£6).
Sally Barker, Karen Tineed, Mary MacMaster and Patsy Seddon, collectively The Poozies, are back in Edinburgh recording their second album. ‘The first album’s called “Chantoozes”, and this is Sally’s idea for a name: “Dansoozies”. But yes, there are good number of danceable tracks on this one. it’s all Poozies. llo session players.’
In their live and lively sets the women all pick up some percussion, changing the texture of what is very much a song-orientated band. Fine players on acoustic harp, electro-harp, accordion and guitar, they play a few sets of purely instrumental music, but the strength of the band Is the strong harmony vocals led by chief
Ms Barker has a large following south of the border and in Europe, and Patsy and Mary are well known as Sileas and as part of Clan Alba, while Karen, a champion piano accordionlst well respected from her work in the Kathryn Tickell band, is in demand everywhere.
Patsy’s pleased that ‘the different people in the band attract their own audience. There are people who love Sally’s voice but don’t want to listen to it all night, and people who love the sound of the two harps but worry about a whole concert. We might have alienated thorn, but we’ve been lucky, the opposite happens, and we’re getting them all.
‘We’re trying to build an audience in Britain first. We want to be solid and successful at home so that we don’t have to travel abroad Just to survive. We’ve got new material since our last Edinburgh gig, all written by the band or by friends. Now there’s only one trad number and that’s not too traditionally done, it’s an up-tenrpo Burns song.’ (Iorrnan Chalmers)
The Poozies (Fringe) Acoustic Music Centre (Venue 25) 220 2482, 23-25 Aug, 7.30pm, £6 (£4.50).
Some musical highlights of the forthcoming week, compiled by Alastair Mabbott.
I A Midsummer liight’s Drean Australian Opera joins forces with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Roderick Brydon for a spectacular production of the Benjamin Britten opera.
A Midsummer Night's Dream (International Festival) Edinburgh Festival Theatre. 225 5 756. 25—2 7 Aug, 7.15pm, £5—£44.
I Robert Maturek Quintet Chicago- style hard bop and blues from this Windy City quintet, with guest saxman Eric Alexander.
Absolute Blues: Jazz Chicago Style (Fringe) Tron Jazz Cellar (Venue 9) 667 93 90. until 4 Sept, 3pm and 8pm. £5.
I Antonio Forcione and lleil Stacey Guitar duo with a winning blend of Latin, jazz, swing and ethnic music.
F orcione and Stacey (Fringe) Assembly Rooms (Venue 3 ), 226 2428, until 27 Aug. 2pm. £7 (£6).
I llan Taper Trio Young American pianist from Boston, making his Scottish debut.
Cellar No 1. Chambers Street, 22—23 Aug, 10.30pm, free.
I Jools llolland And llls Big Band Celebrated ivory-tickler kicks off another series of Fringe shows. Wanna hear a boogie-woogie in a minor key? Here's one.
Jools Holland And His Big Band (Fringe) Queen '3 Hall (Venue 72) 668 2019 (credit card hotline 667 7776). 19—25 Aug, 7. 30pm, 26—28 Aug. 10.30pm. £8 (£7).
I Gene Latest band to make big waves on the indie scene with their single ‘For The Dead', and the latest to be yoked with the ‘new Smiths' tag.
Gene (Fringe) la Belle Angele (Venue 147) 225 2774, 22 Aug, 9pm. £5.
Th9 l icf l0-7‘ Anmlct IOOA I1