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Mizzou Wire

Big and loud

Japanese drummers captivate local kids

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  • Story and audio by Lisa Bruce
  • Photos by Shane Epping
  • Published: Oct. 25, 2007
Yamato drummer

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Hear the heartbeat of Yamato, listen to the reaction of a few kids and learn more about the performers from producer Uriel Luft. This slide show contains audio. A transcript is available.

On the morning of Oct. 23, a cacophony of children’s voices — around 1,500 — filled Jesse Auditorium. Local school kids settled into their seats for a performance by Yamato, a Waidaiko (Japanese drum) group featured the previous evening in a full concert.

The low roar continued in the dark until the first beat reverberated through the audience. Eight drummers — including one playing the odaiko, made from a huge tree more than 400 years old  — rattled the auditorium. The students fell silent.

Many of the Yamato members sport spiky hair or mop-like ponytails, and they seem to be having as much fun as the kids — maybe even more. They do everything big: loud sounds, dramatic flourishes and acrobatic jumps with drums in tow. Then they add a sense of playfulness, competing with one another and engaging the audience in clapping and making sounds.

By the end of November, the group will have logged 207 performances this year — a grueling pace by anyone's standards. The endurance required to perform demands discipline, including five-hour workouts and daily running.

But hard work doesn’t seem to dampen their sense of joy. During the question and answer session after the performance, one little girl asked if they have fun. They all answered yes.

"I think it’s a good lesson for us to learn  — to have fun while doing what we’re doing, even when it is not easy," says Uriel Luft, producer.

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Last updated: June 6, 2013