Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Japanese drums bang out a new sound

On Ensemble to play ancient drums with modern edge

Express Staff Writer

Photo by Ayumi Kameda On Ensemble will play at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum on Friday, Jan. 21, at 6:30 p.m.

Taiko in Japanese refers to a great or wide drum. It is also a reference to the art form of drumming using taiko drums. The members of On Ensemble use the taiko drum as the foundation for their sound, but infuse 21st-century music tastes and styles.

The Sun Valley Center for the Arts will present On Ensemble who will perform its fusion mix of taiko drumming with hip-hop, rock, electronica and other modern music influences at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum on Friday, Jan. 21, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for Center members and $30 for nonmembers.

Modern Drummer magazine said On Ensemble is "an exciting taiko ensemble looking at new ways to apply traditional Japanese drums."

On Ensemble's four members, Masato Baba, Kristofer Bergstrom, Shoji Kameda and Kelvin Underwood are leading artists in their field. Sought after as teachers, workshop leaders, composers and performers, On Ensemble members were featured on the music TV show "Heroes" and in the David Mamet movie "Redbelt," and they performed with Stevie Wonder at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

The group combines their study and deep appreciation of tradition with equally formative experiences as DJs, electronic music producers, jazz drummers and rock bassists to create a repertoire of groundbreaking music.

From outdoor festivals and concert halls to gymnasiums and classrooms, On Ensemble has shared its unique music and outreach programs with audiences throughout the U.S. and Japan. After a debut concert in northern Japan and its first western U.S. tour in spring 2002, the group received the Duane Ebata Memorial Fund Award "in support and recognition of emerging artists of promise who are furthering the development of Asian Pacific American performing arts."

In 2005, On Ensemble released its first studio album, "Dust and Sand" to critical acclaim. In 2006, the group released its first DVD, "Neiro." In 2007, the On Ensemble released its first live CD and second DVD, "Live at the Cerritos Center." In 2009, On Ensemble released its second critically acclaimed studio album, "Ume in the Middle."

For all its avant-garde musical explorations, On Ensemble is supported by one of Japan's most important traditional culture bearers, Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten, instrument maker to the emperor of Japan. This support empowers On Ensemble to use authentic, rare Japanese instruments in its fearless exploration of taiko.

While in the Wood River Valley, On Ensemble will take part in a residency program through The Center with Wood River Valley school students leading interactive demonstrations and presenting the history of Japanese drums. In addition, On Ensemble will participate in a presentation with Footlight Dance Company.

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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