JACCU presents one of the greatest taiko groups of Europe, the Circle Percussion
Circle Percussion is teaming up with JACCU, the Japanese Art & Culture Centre of Utrecht. Together we will share with you our love for the art of taiko & percussion. We will showcase a newly formed Circle Percussion playing their own repertoire they have been fine tuning over decades. JACCU will support the Circle Percussion.
A personal message by Erwin Oudshoorn, the Artistic Director of Circle Percussion
“Ever since I came across the artform of wadaiko, I have been intrigued by the physical and mental aspects needed to create a good sound. As a percussionist, the way of playing a taiko drum was new to me. Over the years, I realized that concepts I had learned from a Western perspective did not apply to the full-body approach of taiko drumming. This motivated me to dive deep into this mysterious instrument, which turned out not to be so mysterious at all, once you feel the logic behind drumming on a taiko.
Having been a stage performer using percussion and taiko for more than 25 years has been a privilege and has brought me great fulfilment. Though a performer at heart, the gap between the audience and the performer remained apparent. We, at Circle Percussion, also set out to form a taiko school to come into direct contact with those who seek out to better themselves in the taiko art. Passing on the knowledge I have accumulated to our students fills me with renewed enthusiasm and passion. These are trying times for both us and our pupils.
Holding a livestream concert is something we, at Circle Percussion, have never done before. But we feel that it will keep us driven to play more concerts, and reconnect us with our audience, the taiko world, our bodies, and our passion. We hope to showcase our passion with a newly formed Circle Percussion. We are looking forward to more fruitful cooperation with other taiko enthusiasts in the future.”
The history of Circle Percussion in a nutshell
Circle Percussion started as ‘Circle Ensemble’, formed by Michael de Roo in 1973. All members were classically trained percussionists from the various conservatories of The Netherlands.
During the late 70’s, they encountered the majestic sound of the taiko drums and the artform of wadaiko through a composer/conductor by the name of Maki Ishii. This fateful meeting led to an adventure of learning and playing his world-renowned pieces ‘Kaguya-Hime’, and ‘Monochrome’.
The introduction of the taiko drum to the consciousness of the Circle Percussion drummers created a fascination that lasted ‘till this day. Over the years and indeed decades, members of Circle would dive deep into the philosophy behind wadaiko. As a result, the Holland Festival of 1983 became the first ever concert where non-Japanese would perform on the Japanese taiko.
The largest taiko drum outside of Japan!
Their great mentors, friends and partners in these endeavors were none other than the members of a young Kodō, the world renowned taiko ensemble founded in 1981. Various tours and training sessions in Japan and elsewhere under the guidance of Kodō throughout the 80s and 90s. This adventure improved Circle Percussion’s taiko skills as well as strengthened their bond with Kodō.
This also led to an early connection with Asano, the oldest taiko producer in Japan. Back then Circle Percussion was able to receive drums from Kodō who used Asano Taiko. A custom okedō-ōdaiko (the largest outside of Japan!) was especially made for Circle Percussion.
This okedō-ōdaiko survived a fire at the local conservatory in 1988, in which all the instruments of Circle Percussion were stored. All of Circle’s instruments were turned into ashes, except for their custom made beast of a taiko! It was rescued by those who acted swiftly on the scene. Luckily, through a fundraising concert and some subsidy, they were able to bring new Asano taiko back into The Netherlands.
Throughout the 90’s and early 00’s, Circle Percussion continued to dazzle audiences both at home and abroad with both small-sized performances and events viewed by millions, as well as with their many concerts and theatre productions.
The addition of the sounds of the taiko into their repertoire became very popular. Therefore, in 2008, a taiko school was opened. There, those who had become enthralled by the taiko could learn to play these instruments just like the members of Circle Percussion had once been taught by Kodō. Passing on knowledge to their students became an important part of their lives.
Taiko, Shiatsu, Idō
Erwin also set up Idō classes in 2014 together with Matthijs van Brakel, a shiatsu therapist. Idō refers to ‘movement’ in Japanese, and the classes focus more on the natural flow of the body, and the awareness of the body whilst playing drums rather than intricate rhythmic techniques.
Erwin made drums similar to taiko drums, specifically for these Idō classes. Mr. Asano from Asano Taiko was impressed by his craftsmanship and gave him advice on how to improve these drums even further.
What makes Circle Percussion so unique within the world of taiko?
- Their early connection with Kodō (one of the pioneers of taiko as a performing art) is going back to the early 80’s.
- One of the first groups outside of Japan to start performing with taiko drums.
- Combining knowledge of the conservatory with taiko philosophy.
- Their ability to incorporate other percussion into their taiko performances.
- The multiple ways in which they have reinvented themselves throughout the years.
- Having made whole theatre productions by themselves.
Circle Percussion has gone through many phases, but since their fateful encounter with the taiko drums, they have never let go of this intriguing instrument. Their vast history is impossible to capture in a few paragraphs, so you can find more of their highlights in the website of Circle Percussion and their YouTube channel.
Jim Gubbels, August 2021
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Japanese Art & Culture Centre of Utrecht
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