Globally acclaimed Japanese taiko drummer Eitetsu Hayashi is keen to perform with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra if invited, he told Gulf Times yesterday.
Hayashi, 60, who started drumming four decades ago, will perform for the first time in the Middle East, in Doha today and tomorrow.
The concerts at Katara Drama Theatre in Building 16 of Katara Cultural Village at 8pm are organised by the embassy of Japan and the Japan Foundation in co-operation with Katara as a part of ‘Qatar Japan 2012’ to celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations.
“Japanese ambassador Kenjiro Monji, who is committed to promoting the culture of our country, would like to see me perform with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, and I am ready to return if there is a special invitation from Qatar,” Hayashi, who has completed 30 years in his solo career, said.
After Qatar, the master drummer, who has carved a niche for himself in Japanese music as an innovator, will give concerts in the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Bahrain.
Hayashi has chosen four drummers, from his 20-strong troupe, for the performances in the region along with flute master Makoto Takei.
During the 90-minute concerts, titled ‘Taiko Legend - Heartbeat from Japan,’ he will give comments in English after each piece.
Though Hayashi rates the European and American audiences very good, he feels more affinity with the Asian audience on account of the cultural similarities.
Born in Hiroshima in 1952, he grew up in a Buddhist temple, hearing his father’s daily recitation of the sutras.
“When I was 12, I got inspired by the drumming of the Beatles’ Ringo Starr and some years later formed a rock band with friends,” Hayashi recalled.
After moving to Tokyo at the age of 19 in 1971 he participated in the founding of the Sado Ondekoza taiko drum group, renowned for its 60km daily marathon runs and training sessions in freezing conditions, followed by another group Kodo before branching out as a solo performer.
Hayashi made his solo debut in 1984 at Carnegie Hall, New York, with the American Symphony Orchestra.
Since then, he has been touring the world, collaborating with a variety of great artists and world’s top orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony, garnering distinguished reviews and the highest acclaims.
The master drummer is credited with developing a unique and emotive O-Daiko (big drum) solo style, which leaps beyond traditional Taiko drum performances in technique, physical stamina and expressive range.
His performances have been credited with bringing a musical fulfilment that can surpass that of a full orchestra - ranging from serene tranquility to the rhythmic, roaring thunder created by his giant 300kg O-Daiko drum.
“In the Asian continent, the drum or taiko is not merely a musical instrument. It has some religious relevance, is used to invoke the blessings of the Almighty, for example to pray for rain,” Hayashi said.
In the olden days when people did not have watches, drums were used to convey time, and relay warning messages to alert people of impending disasters.
Hayashi is credited with creating his own style of taiko drumming, which calls for substantial physical prowess and stamina as the main drum is mounted vertically facing the audience.
Asked how he connects with the audience, especially since he has his back to them when he plays the big drum, Hayashi said on the contrary it multiplies the impact.
“Imagine that the drum is a speaker facing the audience and it conveys the sound directly to them,” he said.
Hayashi used to train very hard by running long distances, a practice he stuck to from his 20s to 30s. Subsequently he shifted his emphasis to experiments with the taiko drum.
He plays around 20 solo performances a year and 10 with various orchestras. “Last year I collaborated with Wadaiko Concerto twice and made two new pieces. I mainly perform in Asia these days,” said Hayashi who has given concerts together with Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysian philharmonic orchestras.
The veteran drummer, who has collaborated with African, Indian, Korean, Chinese, Brazilian and Irish musicians, also loves to listen to folk music from all over the world.
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