If you have ever had western style food in Japan, you will know that the Japanese have their own unique take on it (see picture above). When the Yamato Drummers put a western style tweak on their uniquely Japanese performance, it sometimes got as silly as baked bean sushi.

Baked bean sushi would probably be delicious if you have never been to Japan or seen a taiko drum, but I was fortunate enough to have been to the Narita Drum Festival. The festival is made up of around 800 drummers from different regions of Japan and is held outside the 1000 year old Shinshoji Temple in Narita. The wafting incense combined with the thumping of 800 drums and the serene surroundings make it a sensory experience extraordinaire.

Narita Drum Festival
Devil on top of an ‘Odaiko’ :Narita Festival Japan

Going to see the Yamato Drummers, I was excited that I could try to recapture some of this experience in rainy Brighton. I couldn’t help but feel a slight disappointment, but it had been unfair to compare the two. There were around 12 drummers from Nara and the drums ranged in size. Some were the size of a snare going upwards until the ‘Odaiko’ (which means  ‘big fat drum’ and got the most attention from the audience who felt compelled to keep stating ‘that’s a big drum’).

These different sized drums created interesting harmonies. The drummers combined musicality with precise choreographed movements and swirling colourful clothing. The most notable thing was their sense of humour which reached a peak during a mimed game of ‘cymbal ping-pong’ using small hand held cymbals.

Two virtuoso female shamisen players joined the drummers and were striking in both their ability to play and passion with which they played. They brought a modern twist to such an ancient and formal instrument. The young troupe as a whole are touring the world showing them traditional Japanese instruments played at their best, but also adding their own style. They bring the spirit of Japan both ancient and emerging with the occasional hint of baked bean sushi.