UPDATE: According to Cal Performances, “The Yamato drummers have decided to cancel their North American tour … Ticketholders are being notified of the cancellation.”
From Jan. 19 to March 15, Yamato: The Drummers of Japan tour North America with their new show, “Tenmei | Destiny.”
Yamato’s new 18-city tour will include stops at the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts in Northridge on Jan. 23, the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Feb. 4, and UC Santa Barbara’s Campbell Hall on Feb. 5.
Now in their 27th season, the taiko troupe has reached nearly 8 million people globally in over 4,000 performances, making them the group with the most international performances to date among all Japanese performing arts ensembles. After a year filled with online performances, the “simply captivating” (The Evening Post) troupe is ecstatic to be back on the road after their 40-city tour of “Jhonetsu — Passion!” in 2020 was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The physically powerful troupe of musician-athletes work and live together as a community in the Asuka Village, said to be the birthplace of Japanese culture. There they create their own musical compositions, theater productions, sets, lighting design, choreography, performance techniques, costumes, makeup, stage settings and props. They even make their own bachi sticks used to play the traditional Japanese instruments, beginning each show by hitting a wadaiko drum weighing half a ton, made from a single piece of wood from a 400-year-old tree.
“Yamato believes that the drumbeat, like the heartbeat, is the very pulse of life and the epitome of the Japanese spirit,” says Masa Ogawa, founder and artistic director. “Yamato uses creativity to convert wadaiko into a performing art that can reverberate in Japan, Asia, and the rest of the world.”
Yamato based their new production on the concept of 天命 (Tenmei), a word first described by Confucius in The Analects (551-479 BCE) in an expression that translates as“at 50 I knew the will of heaven.” Since then, the word has taken on the meaning of “destiny,” or the fate of life given by heaven. With the world shuttered due to COVID-19, the Yamato drummers were forced to think about their destiny. The troupe returned to Asuka Village, where they never ceased training and creating together.
“In 2023, we will have our 30th anniversary year,” says Ogawa. “It was with this in mind that I started to create the program ‘Tenmei’ in 2019. In hindsight, I was thinking of ‘destiny’ as something I could decide for myself. That was before the pandemic. Now, I understand that there are things beyond our power and my control. In Japanese, there is a saying, ‘Jinji wo tsukushite Tenmei wo matsu,’ which translates as ‘Do the likeliest, and God will do the best.’ The word of God has various meanings to people, but to me, it means the power from outside of people. I believe that we should do our best to create our ‘destiny’ and then wait for our ‘destiny.’”
• Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts
18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge, CA 91330-8448
Sunday, Jan. 23, at 3 and 8 p.m.
Tickets $41-$86 available at http://thesoraya.org or by calling (818) 677-3000
• Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts
18000 Park Plaza Drive, Cerritos, CA 90703
Friday, Feb. 4, at 8 p.m.
Tickets $50-$70 available at http://cerritoscenter.com or by calling (562) 916-8500
• UC Santa Barbara – Campbell Hall
Saturday, Feb. 5, at 7 p.m.
General public $25-$40, students/youth $15
Tickets available at http://artsandlectures.ucsb.edu or by calling (805) 893-3535
Jan. 19, Arts on Tour at CSI Fine Arts Center, Twin Falls, Idaho
Jan. 29-30, Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley
Feb. 2, Gallo Center for the Arts, Modesto
Feb. 8, Tower Theatre, Bend, Ore.
Feb. 9, Craterian Theatre, Medford, Ore.
Feb. 14, Seattle Theatre Group – The Moore Theatre, Seattle
Feb. 17, Jack Singer Concert Hall, Calgary, Alberta
Feb. 21, Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek, Colo.
Feb. 23, University of Central Arkansas – Reynolds Performance Hall, Conway, Ark.
Feb. 25, Gogue Performing Arts Center at Auburn, Auburn, Ala.
March 3, The Grand Theater, Wausau, Wis.
March 8, Marcus Performing Arts Center, Milwaukee, Wis.
March 10, Memorial Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio
March 12, Berklee Performance Center, Boston
March 15, Massey Hall, Toronto, Ontario
For more information, visit: www.yamatodrummers.com