Whitehorse is about to get a dose of Japanese culture from the upcoming Festival of Taiko Drumming. June 11 to 13 will see the Japanese Canadian Association of Yukon host the world-renowned drumming group, Uzume Taiko, for a series of workshops and concerts.

Canada’s first professional taiko drumming group, Uzume Taiko has released four CDs, performed countless local, national, and international shows, and participated in teaching and sharing its knowledge of this musical artform around the globe.

With its powerful synthesis of music, movement, and theatre, Uzume Taiko uses a diverse collection of percussive and melodic instruments as well as taiko drums. Uzume Taiko has developed a dynamic fusion of old and new styles of drumming — bringing a vibrant, contemporary sensibility to an ancient art.

They have collaborated with numerous artists over the years, spanning musical genres from mainstream rock/pop acts to western classical symphonies to Scottish highland pipers and the Hammond B-3 organ. The group’s desire to take artistic risks, and fuse its music with a myriad of like-minded fearless collaborators, has made for a unique musical experience.

Fumi Torigai, of the Japanese Canadian Association of Yukon, says that the association has been talking about bringing a good taiko group to Whitehorse for some time. “Taiko drumming is definitely one of the most well-known and most popular of all the traditional Japanese art forms. Although Uzume Taiko incorporates many different styles outside the tradition in their performance, still the inspiration originates in the ancient art of Japanese taiko drumming,” he says.

“I am excited to be able to see what kind of energy and excitement the Uzume trio is going to build up among the audience in a live performance. And personally from a musician’s perspective, I’m eager to find out what kind of interesting and innovative rhythms the group is going to present.”

Uzume Taiko’s main performance will take place on the Yukon Arts Centre main stage on Friday, June 12 at 8 p.m. This will be preceded by school performances and a free outdoor mini-concert at the Fireweed Market in Shipyards Park from 3:15 to 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 11.

Directly after the mini-concert on June 11, the public is welcome to sign-up for taiko drumming workshops that Uzume Taiko will be hosting on Saturday, June 13 (another opportunity to register will take place directly before and after Friday’s Yukon Art Centre performance).

These workshops will cover basic taiko drumming stances, form, and vocal shouts. Participants will have the opportunity to practice drum sticking, rhythmic drills, and group song playing.

A youth workshop for ages 8-13 will take place from 10:30-11:45 a.m. This will be followed by an adult workshop for ages 14 and up that will run between 2 and 3:30 p.m.

Torigai says, “It is also our hope that this Taiko Festival would spark sufficient interest among local taiko lovers to get together to form a local taiko club of a sort. The Japanese Canadian Association of Yukon would of course be very happy to assist in its effort.”

For more information contact Fumi Torigai at jcayukon@gmail. com.