Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers – Sun 11th April


The World of Gods

Tommy Smith is never short of imaginative ideas when it comes to cooking up repertoire for the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, but this pushes even that estimable band’s envelope – and then some. I can’t be absolutely sure, but I’d guess that this is the first ever collaboration between a jazz big band and a Japanese drum ensemble.

The World of Gods brings together the SNJO and three drummers from the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers (based, like Smith himself, in Lanarkshire), group founders Neil Mackie and Miyuki Williams, and Teresa Brookes. Smith is writing an entire new set of music for the programme based, as the title suggests, on Shinto Gods.

‘It is a tough one, I freely admit,’ he said. ‘I have had to learn a lot about the drummers and the instruments and how they work, and about Japanese music and culture. I’m writing some music around themes of the Shinto gods, most of whom are related to the elements – thunder and sun and so on. I’m incorporating Japanese scales rather than just traditional jazz harmony, so it won’t be simply superimposing Count Basie on Taiko Drummers.’

The show will also incorporate atmospheric lighting effects and elements of choreography for the drummers, and the idea has already attracted interest from several festivals in the months following this inaugural tour.

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