Taro Harasaki drums to his own beat in Drum Tao at the Wharton Center


Traditional Japanese drumming meets modern entertainment when it comes to the Wharton Center’s new show: Drum Tao. The show mixes the traditional and classic use of Taiko drums with quirky and fun choreography to dazzle international audiences.

Taro Harasaki is one of the drummers of the traditional yet modern drum troupe Drum Tao from Japan. He explained that although this type of percussion is not common in our region, there is a wide range of percussion troupes in Japan, from professionals to amateurs, and from traditional to more modern like Drum Tao, but most borrow the classic way doing Drum Tao. unique to the art form.

“Our show also uses traditional and classic drum types, but what we do is far from that classic style,” Harasaki said. “Our director and founder was inspired by the Cirque du Soleil show called ‘Mystery’ before forming Drum Tao…he decided he wanted to make a Drum Tao show like a Cirque du Soleil show which is full entertaining and full of joy.”

He explained that what Drum Tao puts on is more entertaining than a classical music show. With that added element of creating an extravagant Las Vegas-style show, Harasaki and the other cast members put in a lot of time and personal effort to make each show as captivating as possible.

“We talked a lot,” Harasaki said. “We talk a lot. We come together to make the numbers better and better. We put many years into a single number to make the songs rich.

Harasaki said being able to collaborate with others who share the same niche interest as him has been refreshing, only adding to the show by being able to consistently put better and new ideas into numbers.

However, prior to this recent tour, the band hadn’t been able to work together for a while. When COVID-19 hit, Drum Tao was on tour. Suddenly, they had to abruptly cancel the rest of their show dates and be sent home to Japan. However, Harasaki heard that people were starting to miss the show overseas.

“We heard that many Tao fans in the United States were looking forward to seeing the show again,” Harasaki said.

While the group still faces the dangers of the pandemic, such as having to self-isolate upon arriving in the United States, they were excited to finally pick up where they left off.

“People get so excited at the end when you ask them how they like the show,” Harasaki said. “After seeing this…we feel like we made the right decision. We are extremely happy to be back.

With a new tour and new show that are constantly being tweaked to make the show as engaging as possible, Drum Tao enters the stage with new skills to show off.

“We have many new elements in our show, such as a flag performance and martial arts,” Harasaki said.

Besides drums, they also use other instruments in the show, such as Japanese bamboo flutes and the Japanese guitar known as the shamisen. Using many forms of theatrical entertainment, Drum Tao is sure to surprise and shock an audience.

“We dance and perform, in addition to showing you martial arts on stage with beats and music, so it’s a whole new type of culture, using traditional things, but also modern things,” Harasaki said. .

However, show times aren’t the only times this troupe bonds and performs together. Harasaki said Drum Tao had their own lifestyle, doing everything together to develop their bonds and abilities to connect musically as a troupe.

Harasaki set the stage for the Drum Tao lifestyle: a base in the middle of nowhere in Japan where drums can sound loud without disturbing neighbors with the immense sound of Taiko drums. Every day, Drum Tao artists come together to play and practice in the same physical and mental space.

“We all gather together in one place to practice everything,” Harasaki said. “Every morning we get together at 5:30 or 6 a.m. and start running…and drumming in place for an hour for strength training.”

Harasaki believes this lifestyle is unique to Drum Tao when it comes to studying traditionally.

He explained that the process to excel at Drum Tao is rewarding with other people by your side, but intense. It usually takes one to three years of constant study to hit the stage as an official Drum Tao drummer.

“Drum Tao’s lifestyle makes our show… complete,” Harasaki said.

Harasaki said he’s excited to share this lifestyle with Wharton Center guests. His favorite part of the show is getting to do a special piece with two of his other cast mates, performing the classic shamisen in a new way for the crowd.

You can see Harasaki and his favorite play on March 15 at the Wharton Center for a night of new and exciting culture in East Lansing.

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