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Tsukasa Taiko

Sat, Dec 20, 2014

Copresented with Asian Improv aRts Midwest

Pan-Asian percussive masters revel in both the classical art and the contemporary appeal of taiko—Japanese drumming. Once heard only at traditional ceremonies and temples in Japan, taiko today makes a vital contribution to the global expression of drumming.

An eclectic slate of music and dance artists hailing from Tokyo, San Francisco, and Chicago performs two programs of percussive pummeling rooted in the sounds of taiko: a family-friendly show, Taiko Legacy 11, and an evening performance, Reduction.

In stark contrast to the popular appeal of Taiko Legacy, Reduction explores taiko’s quieter, more subtle beauty. For this hybrid work, director Tatsu Aoki draws on his experience in Tokyo’s new wave of performance art. The unearthly Ayako Kato, one of Chicago’s leading contemporary dance improvisers, performs alongside formidable creative musicians including reedists Edward Wilkerson Jr., Douglas R Ewart, and Mwata Bowden, flutist Nicole Mitchell, and vocalist Dee Alexander. Taiko player Eigen Aoki joins the estimable Michael Zerang and Hamid Drake on snare drums and percussion.

Running time: 90 minutes

Artists Up Close

MCA Studio
Open Doors
Fri, Dec 19 2–4 pm

Museum visitors are invited to come and go from the theater to observe the artists working on the production.

MCA Talk
First Night
Sat, Dec 20, postshow

Audience members are invited to stay at the end of the performance for a conversation with Tatsu Aoki and collaborators, moderated by Yolanda Cesta Cursach.


Program Notes

About the Artists

Tatsu Aoki was born in Tokyo and is a prolific composer, filmmaker, and performer of traditional and experimental music. Aoki was named one of 2001’s “Chicagoans of the year” by Chicago Tribune and has performed with masters such as Roscoe Mitchell, Don Moye, pipa virtuoso Wu Man, and the late Chicago legend Fred Anderson. His suite ROOTED: Origins of Now, a four-movement suite for big band, premiered in 2001 at the Chicago Jazz Festival and MCA Stage as part of Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival, which he founded in 1997.

Hamid Drake is a Chicago-based jazz drummer and percussionist who tours internationally. His regular collaborators include bassist William Parker, saxophonist David Murray, free-jazz saxophonists Peter Brötzmann and Ken Vandermark, and fellow drummer Michael Zerang.

Douglas R. Ewart is from Kingston, Jamaica, and entered the School of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in 1967 as a student of Shaku Joseph Jarman and Roscoe Mitchell. He is an accomplished visual artist as well as composer, music inventor, and multi-instrumentalist, notably of the sopranino and alto saxophones, clarinets, bassoon, flute, bamboo flutes (shakuhachiney, and panpipes), didgeridoo, and Rastafarian hand drums (nyabingi, repeater, and bass). He has been Chair of the AACM in periods between 1986 and 2009, and performs and records with numerous artists including J. D. Parran, Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Rufus Reid, Don Byron, Wadada Leo Smith, and Cecil Taylor.

Ayako Kato is a dancer and choreographer from Yokohama, Japan, trained in classical ballet as well as in butoh with master Kazuo Ohno, tai chi, Noh theater, and modern dance. She established Art Union Humanscape (AUH) in Chicago in 1998 with double bassist Jason Roebke and in 2007 received a Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist Award.

Nicole Mitchell is a creative musician, composer, and educator who headlines at festivals and venues throughout Europe and the US with her various bands. She has been repeatedly awarded by DownBeat Critics Poll Top Flutist of the Year (2010–13) and served as the first woman president of the AACM. Her MCA commission Mandorla Awakening: Emerging Worlds premieres at MCA Stage in May 2015 with her Black Earth Ensemble.

Edward Wilkerson Jr. is a musician, composer, educator, and bandleader of the octect 8 Bold Souls and 25-member ensemble Shadow Vignettes, which tour to festivals and concert halls throughout the US, Europe, Japan, and the Middle East. He is a frequent collaborator in Chicago’s Asian American music scene and a major presence in the AACM, where he has served as president.

Michael Zerang, a first-generation American of Assyrian descent who was born in Chicago, has been a professional musician, composer, and producer since 1976. Zerang has received three Joseph Jefferson Awards for original music composition in theater, collaborating with Redmoon.

Tsukasa Taiko, cofounded by Tatsu Aoki in 1996, is the largest multigenerational ensemble performing in traditional and contemporary forms in the United States.

Learn more about Tsukasa Taiko here.


Generous support for dance works at MCA Stage is provided by David Herro and Jay Franke.