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Taro Harasaki drums to his own beat in Drum Tao at the Wharton Center

March 14, 2022
<p>Drum Tao comes to the Wharton Center.</p>

Drum Tao comes to the Wharton Center.

Traditional Japanese drumming meets modern entertainment when it comes to the newest show heading to the Wharton Center: Drum Tao. The show mixes the traditional and classic use of Taiko drumming with eccentric and fun choreography to dazzle international audiences.

Taro Harasaki is one of the drummers in Drum Tao's traditional, yet modern drumming troop from Japan. He explained that while this type of drumming is not mainstream in our area, there are a wide range of drumming troops in Japan, from professional to hobbyists, and traditional to more modern like Drum Tao, but most taking up the classic route making Drum Tao unique to the art form.

“Our show also uses traditional and classic types of drums, but what we do is far away from that classic style,” Harasaki said. “Our director and founder was inspired by the Cirque du Soleil show called ‘Mystère’ before they formed Drum Tao … he decided he wanted to make a Drum Tao show just like a Cirque du Soleil show which is full of entertainment and full of joy.”

He explained that what Drum Tao puts on stage is more entertaining than a classical music show. With this added element of creating a Las Vegas-esque, outlandish show, Harasaki and the other troop members put in a lot of time and personal work into making every show the most audience-grabbing it can be.

“We discussed a lot,” Harasaki said. “We talk a lot. We meet to make the numbers better and better. We put many years into one number to make the songs rich.”

Harasaki said being able to collaborate with the others who share the same niche interest as him has been refreshing, only adding to the show with being able to put better and new ideas into numbers consistently.

Howevever, before this recent tour, the group had not been able to work together in a bit of time. When COVID-19 struck, Drum Tao was in the middle of a tour. Suddenly, they were faced with having to cancel the rest of their show dates abruptly and get sent home to Japan. However, Harasaki heard there were rumors of people starting to miss the show overseas.

“We heard that many Tao fans in the U.S. are looking forward to seeing the show again,” Harasaki said.

While the group is still dealing with the dangers of the pandemic, such as having to isolate when they arrived in the U.S., they were excited to finally pick up where they left off.

“People are so excited at the end when you ask them how they like the show,” Harasaki said. “After seeing that … we are strongly feeling that we made the right decision. We are extremely happy to be back.”

With a new tour and show that is constantly being tweaked to make the most engaging show it can be, Drum Tao is entering the stage with new skills to show off.

“We have many brand new elements to our show like a flag performance and martial arts,” Harasaki said.

Other than drums, they are also utilizing other instruments in the show such as Japanese bamboo flutes and the Japanese guitar known as the shamisen. Using many forms of theater entertainment, Drum Tao is certain to surprise and shock an audience.

“We dance and perform, as well as showing you some martial arts on stage with rhythms and music, so it's a totally brand new kind of culture, using traditional things, but also modern stuff,” Harasaki said.

However, showtimes are not the only times this troop bonds and performs together. Harasaki said that Drum Tao has their own lifestyle, doing everything together to expand its bonds and abilities to connect musically as a troop.

Harasaki set the stage for the Drum Tao lifestyle: a base in the middle of nowhere in Japan where the drums can ring loud without disturbing any neighbors with the immense sound of the Taiko drums. Every day, the Drum Tao artists gather to perform and practice in the same physical and headspace.

“We meet all together in one place to practice everything," Harasaki said. “Every morning we get together at 5:30 or 6 in the morning and start running … and beating the drum in place for one hour for muscle training.”

Harasaki believes that this lifestyle is unique to Drum Tao when it comes to studying traditionally.

He explained that the process to excel at Drum Tao is rewarding with the other people by your side, but intense. It usually takes one to three years of constant study to get on the stage as an official drummer of Drum Tao.

“The lifestyle of Drum Tao makes our show … complete,” Harasaki said.

Harasaki said he is excited to share this lifestyle with the patrons of the Wharton Center. His favorite part of the show is being able to do a special piece with two of his other troop mates, playing the classic shamisen in a new way for the crowd.

You can see Harasaki and his favorite piece on March 15 at the Wharton Center for a night of new and exciting culture coming to East Lansing.

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