Local ensemble cooks up a feast of drumming

15 February 2023

Synchronised and elegant, Taiko On’s ode to human selflessness brings flawless rhythm, discipline and showmanship to Fringe World, writes Angela Ho.

AME ~ undaunted by rain, Taiko On
Lotterywest De Parel Spiegeltent Perth Cultural Centre, 14 February 2023

It’s a sweltering late afternoon in the Perth Cultural precinct, but you wouldn’t know it from inside the drapes of the De Parel Spiegeltent, where soft blue lighting, bird song and misty interiors evoke the gentleness of water.

It’s an apt juxtaposition for Taiko On’s third year at Fringe World. Having seen this Perth-based Japanese drumming ensemble in action before, I know the stillness inside this intimate venue is not going to last.

Taiko On’s new show, AME ~ undaunted by rain, takes its name from a Japanese poem Ame ni mo makezu (Undaunted by the Rain), by famed poet Miyazawa Kenji. The verse is recited from beneath a Japanese parasol by founding member and percussionist Aya Kelly during an atmospheric instrumental opening.

A young woman from Taiko On stands in from of a drummer, with drum kits in the background. She wears a red kaftan style top and a black skirt.
Aya Kelly recites ‘Ame ni mo makezu’, a humbling meditation on constancy. Photo: Diane Hewitt

It’s a humbling meditation on constancy and the inner peace which can stem from selfless service of others, and the strength contained within the words is reflected in the group’s impressive rhythmic power and control.

AME ~ undaunted by rain sees rising composer and percussionist Jet Kye Chong join Taiko On’s ranks, bringing his reliable vibraphone talents to the compact group of veteran performers. For a group of four, the ensemble is a well-rounded and diverse mix of talents. And as is usually the case with percussion, each performer is a master of more than one craft, roaming adeptly between instruments so that the music and rhythm of drumming never stops.

The show builds slowly – opening with the wandering melodic contours of shinobue flute and didgeridoo (Sanshi) to rippling vibraphone ostinatos (Chong) which swell into explosive taiko drumming sequences led by Simon Vanyai and Kelly.

A man from Taiko On plays a didgeridoo. Behind him three drummers are poised with their drumsticks at the ready.
Sanshi plays wandering melodic contours on didgeridoo. Photo: Diane Hewitt

And despite the freezing venue (two front row-seaters switched seats mid-show to avoid being blasted by the air conditioning), the performers are slick with sweat by the end of it. Japanese taiko drumming is a discipline which requires both physical and mental exertion.

The stage dimensions feel like a limitation. They’ve built the show around the addition of vibraphone this year, with the front portion dedicated to solos by both Sanshi and Chong, but navigation between drums arranged along the back has us praying for no missteps.

Everything else about the show feels like a masterclass in clockwork ensemble, synchronised and elegant, and performed with flawless showmanship.

After the veritable drumming feast we’ve just enjoyed, the applause seems paltry by comparison. Not because it’s lacking — but because human hands just can’t match the volume of a beating Japanese drum.

AME ~ undaunted by rain continues at the Lotterywest De Parel Spiegeltent until 19 February 2023.

Like what you're reading? Support Seesaw.

Author —
Angela Ho

Angela Ho studies journalism and law, and has reported for the ABC and 10 News First with Media Diversity Australia. A lover of niche harmony, she’s classically trained to count rests as a violist, hold an alto line and, most recently, handle the Perth Bell Tower bells. The swings are Angela’s playground frolic of choice.

Past Articles

  • Close encounter stirs the soul

    Violinist and composer Rupert Guenther welcomes us into his inner world for a soul-searching evening of improvisation, writes Angela Ho. 

  • Guiding light for state of riches

    Perth Symphony Orchestra lights the way in a captivating collaboration delivered with poise and polish, writes Angela Ho.

Read Next

  • Just what the doctor ordered

    Just what the doctor ordered

    29 September 2023

    Dr AudiYO uses vocal gymnastics to take the audience on a fun adventure. Junior reviewers Jackson and Chloe Davis are happy to take this prescription. 

    Reading time • 3 minutesTheatre
  • Seadragon weaves magic spell

    Seadragon weaves magic spell

    28 September 2023

    The Magical Weedy Seadragon enchants junior reviewer Isabel Greentree with a winning blend of story, song and humour.   

    Reading time • 4 minutesMulti-arts
  • Lifting the weight of the world

    Lifting the weight of the world

    28 September 2023

    Junior reviewers Jackson and Chloe Davis are taken on a thoughtful and funny journey to the Moon with one overwhelmed girl.

    Reading time • 4 minutesTheatre

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio


Cleaver Street Studio