Arts and Entertainment

Japanese drumming troupe Yamato to perform anniversary show Nov. 12

Yamato's 20th anniversary program features nine works blending tradition and innovation. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Yamato, a group of mixed-gender Taiko musicians from Japan, applies the theatrical exhibitionism of a rock ’n’ roll concert — seasoned with humor — to samurai-serious percussion playing in concerts that captivate audiences of all ages. In "Rojyoh – The Beat on the Road," on stage at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, in Penn State’s Eisenhower Auditorium, Yamato celebrates two decades of performing in 52 countries around the planet.

“Yamato present Taiko drumming as physical theatre, with a mix of athleticism and showbiz,” wrote a critic for The (London) Independent. “… They’re exuberant performers, leaping from drum to drum, flourishing drumsticks.”

Tickets for the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State presentation are $38 for an adult, $15 for a University Park student and $24 for a person 18 and younger. Buy tickets online at or by phone at 814-863-0255. Outside the local calling area, dial 800-ARTS-TIX. Tickets are also available at four State College locations: Eisenhower Auditorium (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays), Penn State Downtown Theatre Center (9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays), HUB-Robeson Center Information Desk (11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays) and Bryce Jordan Center (9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays). A grant from the University Park Allocation Committee makes Penn State student prices possible.

The anniversary program features nine works created during the company’s 20 years of blending tradition and innovation. The show opens with “The Birth Place of Yamato” and includes “Strong Man,” a piece performed with a technique in which the drums are flat on their sides and struck horizontally; “The Concentrated Spirit,” an attempt to find focus in the age of endless distractions; “The Fire,” which pits two female drummers against a pair of male drummers in a number crackling with tension and speed; and “Drumming Like a Camel,” a 1998 work that’s become a cornerstone of Yamato concerts.

“The sheer physical strength and movement of the drummers was as impressive as the music, in what was a visually spectacular and highly entertaining show,” wrote a reviewer for The (York, England) Press. “It is surprising to witness how the company draw out an amazing range of timbre and tempo from the drums, delivering captivating music which has both delicate beauty and heart-thumping bass power.”

Masa Ogawa founded Yamato in 1993 in Nara, the ancient city credited as the birthplace of Japanese culture.

Although Yamato’s drummers are serious about percussion, they always convey to audiences that they’re enjoying themselves. “We carry open, smiling faces into our performances,” Ogawa said. “Here, men and women are equals on the stage. Our smiles are meant to tickle the serious side of a human being.”

Artistic Viewpoints, an informal moderated discussion featuring a visiting artist or local expert, is offered in Eisenhower one hour before the performance and is free for ticket holders. Artistic Viewpoints regularly fills to capacity, so seating is available on a first-arrival basis.

Photos of Yamato for media use are available to download at

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Also, the public is invited to participate in a free Family Drum Workshop, conducted by the Penn State Taiko Drum Club, at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10, on the Eisenhower Auditorium patio. Members of the club, directed by Kimberly Powell, will demonstrate Taiko drumming. A variety of hands-on activities will be available. Registration is not required. In case of inclement weather, the workshop will take place in the Eisenhower lobby.

Last Updated October 17, 2013