A Collaboration Revived
The Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh experienced a musical extravaganza on May 28, 2023, as the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra (SNJO) teamed up with the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers to perform their acclaimed collaborative piece, “World of the Gods.” This partnership between the SNJO and the Japanese drumming troupe dates back to 2010, highlighting the fusion of two distinct art forms: taiko drumming and modern big band jazz.
The Fusion of Musical Worlds
Under the direction of Tommy Smith, the SNJO’s director, the performance showcased a delightful blend of rhythm and melody. The Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers displayed their captivating skills on stage right, while the 15-member SNJO ensemble occupied the other side of the stage.
Alyn Cosker, the SNJO’s drummer, played a crucial role in bringing the two worlds of jazz and Japanese percussion together. His drumming was seamlessly integrated with the taiko rhythms, demonstrating his exceptional ability to adapt to various rhythmic patterns.
Showcasing Flexibility and Endurance
Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers captivated the audience with their flexibility and endurance. Their syncopated pulsations complemented the SNJO’s natural swing, adding depth and layers to the performance. Smith aimed to incorporate the ritualized formality of taiko within the big band’s musical setting, and the three performers certainly brought their theatricality to the concert.
A Nod to Traditional Melodies and Jazz Standards
Smith’s compositions for the show expertly blended traditional Japanese melodies with jazz writing, creating a rich tapestry of sound that had an unmistakable Ellingtonian feel. The orchestral arrangements featured intricate interplay between the band’s sections and the Mugenkyo Taiko, utilizing their rhythmic patterns as the foundation for the pieces.
A Tribute to Shinto Gods
The performance consisted of ten pieces, each named after one of the many Shinto gods. Taiko drums are traditionally associated with war and thunder, and the pieces dedicated to the God of War and the God of Thunder & Lightning truly showcased the power and intensity of the Japanese drums. Audience members could feel the force of the sound resonate throughout the venue, with some orchestra members even shielding their ears. However, the performance also had its share of subtlety, revealing a gentler side to both the taiko drums and the orchestra.
The harmonious combination of the SNJO, Mugenkyo Taiko, and enthralling music made the evening a memorable event for all who attended.