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Friday, September 16, 2011

Beat the Drums -- Unique Taiko Ensemble's Final Show This Weekend

Posted By on Fri, Sep 16, 2011 at 10:30 AM

The four original members of the Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble beat their drums for the last time this weekend in a new work entitled Time Cocoon that explores the "peculiar world of insects" and the Buddhist philosophy of life and death.


Founded in 1999, the ensemble (known as SYTE) aims to "express the human condition" through the rhythmic and often acrobatic art of Japanese taiko drumming. SYTE's brand of taiko isn't the norm, said Kallan Nishimoto, one of two members who will retire after this weekend. SYTE's members have advanced training in visual art, dance, costume design and a variety of musical styles. Along with traditional Japanese sounds (shamisen, bamboo flute, and, of course, a series of hulking drums), SYTE incorporates additional choreography, music genres, and instruments, such as a Native American flute and the Peruvian huaca.

"Because of our various backgrounds -- we're into Afro-Cuban music, jazz, blues, punk, rock -- those elements crept into it," Nishimoto said. "We didn't plan on this direction, but when we start composing and conceptualizing our work, it ends up that way."

Time Cocoon also makes use of Nishimoto's design skills, with a set that includes a series of oversize insect cages crafted from bamboo. These structures are a visual reference, Nishimoto said, to cages that once held insects to be sold as pets in Japan, where bugs are less reviled and more revered.

Time Cocoon runs tonight (Friday) through Sunday, Sept. 16-18, at the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center at the ODC Theater, 3153 17th St. (at Shotwell), S.F. Admission is $20-$25.

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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Beth Hillman


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