Everyone’s banging on about the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers

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THERE’S nothing quite like the thundering of drums to get the blood pumping. Add some powerful taiko rhythms, dramatic choreography, haunting bamboo flute and some playful percussion and you soon understand the attraction of an evening in the company of the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers.

The UK’s only professional touring taiko drumming group return to the Capital tomorrow, when they stop off at the Usher Hall as part of their 2011 tour.

Formed in 1994, Mugenkyo have built a reputation for giving hard-hitting performances, along the way spearheading the development of taiko drumming as a European art-form.

Over the best part of two decades, the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers have developed a unique, gritty yet passionate style that retains the traditional spirit of taiko.

In Japan, where the art-form originated, taiko simply means drum, one of many that, for more than 1000 years were played to ward off famine, to celebrate festivals and to summon storms.

Consequently, tomorrow’s concert promises to be musically varied, as the musicians produce soundscapes that conjure up a journey through a myriad of moods, from the heart-pounding excitement of Ikkyo, to the dark sinister Otherworld, to the hypnotic Phoenix, to the happy festival atmosphere of Matsuri.

The name Mugenkyo means ‘limitless reverberation’, a reflection of the belief that taiko has no limitations and no musical nor geographical boundaries.

At the Usher Hall, the drummers will be joined by special guest musician Clive Bell.

Having travelled and trained extensively in Japan, Thailand, Laos and Bali, Bell specialises in the shakuhachi, a traditional Chinese bamboo flute, the khene, a Lao mouth organ, and other Far Eastern wind instruments,

Founding member Neil Mackie says, “I’d never heard of taiko drumming until I travelled to Japan. It was there that I first saw it and was knocked back by it.

“I’d played drums in rock bands but this was like no other drumming I had ever seen. The style wasn’t so much the ancient style, it was a group of people playing amazingly fast, exciting rhythms and, for me, that was what was special,” he recalls.

At the Usher Hall, the sound of the taiko drums - one of which is one and a half metres in diameter - will reverberate around the 2000-seat concert hall, accompanied by displays of choreography and athleticism.

As the Evening News declared, giving the show a four- star review last time around, ‘Just when you think it could not get any more powerful, it doubles in intensity. This show is not one to be missed.’

Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers, Usher Hall, Lothian Road, tomorrow, 7.30pm, £18-£22, 7.30pm, 0131-228 1155