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World Music CD Reviews Asia & Far East

Joji Hirota and the Taiko Drummers

By Robert Kaye
Published August 1, 2005

Japanese Taiko
Arc Music Inc.

While his name may unknown to many, which is unfortunate, Joji Taiko is among the world’s premier percussionists. His long and distinguished resume includes “Best of…” accolades, of which there are many. He’s performed with U.K. multi-percussionist Peter Lockett, composed TV scores, written soundtracks for noted dance companies and then some. It’s not surprising, then, that this charismatic musician/composer has created an energetic daiko/taiko drum album that is compositionally interesting, kaleidoscopically colored, featuring an expansive landscape of rhythms. His ensemble, four men and four women, both Oriental and Occidental percussionists, performs with precision and verve. Of the nine compositions, Hirota wrote all but one, “Musashi Mai Uchi,” a traditional piece that he arranged. The first tune, “Harvest,” has an almost jazz swing feel, similar to Benny Goodman’s momentous performance of Louis Prima’s “Sing Sing Sing.” Others, of course, sound more Japanese. For those unfamiliar with listening to taiko, one might presume, “All percussion? This is going to be boring.” Not so. Like trying sushi for the first time, some of its “flavors” may be new and exotic, but repeated consumption only enhances one’s desire for more.