Thud, thud, thud.
The sonic thunder of Uzume Taiko’s drums pulse through the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.
Drumsticks point to the sky as the performers prepare to bring them crashing down on the percussion instruments in perfect precision. The energy is palpable as they dance across stage, every step equal parts performance art and martial arts.
Uzume Taiko takes the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre stage Saturday for the society’s 16th birthday bash.
“Our birthday bash is a special cross of martial arts and power,” said Erin Kennedy, artistic director of the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre. “It’s a fun show for the whole family.”
Uzume Taiko, a professional Taiko drumming group, blends foot-stomping rhythms with well choreographed physicality and a peppering of humour to keep the audience on their toes.
“True to their name Uzume, the Japanese Goddess of laughter, and Taiko meaning drum, this powerful group brings a theatrical blend to their roaring beats,” said Keyanna Burgher, the society’s audience development officer.
With a legacy spanning back to 1988, Uzume Taiko has worked hard to carve a path for Canadian West Coast taiko drumming.
“There’s a lot of history behind us,” said musical director Jason Overy, who has been with the group since the turn of the century. “My experience has been quite remarkable.”
With a background steeped in martial arts training and a bachelor’s of music in performance from the University of Victoria, Overy said Taiko drumming was a natural fit.
“(Taiko combines) two components of my life,” he said. “It’s definitely Asian-centric music, and spending most of my life in martial arts, it’s given me an appreciation of how you use your energy.”
While the art of Taiko drumming stems from traditional Japanese culture, Uzume Taiko hopes to break down the perception that Taiko drumming can only be performed by a Japanese group.
“We want less classicism and racism. All instruments can be performed by all cultures,” Overy said. “Our goal is to have one world, one drum and one beat.”
Through engaging acrobatic performance, martial arts-soaked energy and a hammering beat, Uzume Taiko’s inspiring message translates to the stage.
“It’s very theatrical and you’re transformed through the conversation — you’ve been on a journey,” Overy said. “Hopefully, on the other side, you’ve experienced some sort of transportation as well.”
Performing alongside Overy are artistic director Boonie Son and performers Naomi Kajiwara, Boyd Seiichi Grealy and Jordy Riley — the same troupe that had a successful European tour in 2015, Overy said.
And it’s a troupe that Overy is excited to bring back to Vernon.
“It’s a beautiful part of the province,” Overy said, adding that Uzume Taiko last played in Vernon roughly a decade ago.
In support of the birthday bash, Uzume Taiko will host a basic Taiko drumming workshop using student teaching drums Friday from 7 to 8 p.m. Admission is free and open to adults and ages 10-and-up. Call the box office to register.
“We hope to encourage even one person to follow Taiko,” Overy said.
Uzume Taiko takes the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre stage Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available for $35 for adults. $32 for seniors and $30 for students through the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca. Discounts available for members of the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre Society.