Stunning beats of Mugenkyo

The Mugenkyo Drummers, led by Neil Mackie (far left) were a hidden gem that have to be seen live
The Mugenkyo Drummers, led by Neil Mackie (far left) were a hidden gem that have to be seen live

Appearing for the first time in Eastbourne, this touring group of Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers stormed the Congress theatre and received a standing ovation.

Mugenkyo, “limitless reverberation”, was formed in 1994 when Neil Mackie and Miyuki Williams, after undertaking arduous training for two years with the renowned Masaaki Kurumaya Sensei in Japan, returned to this country.

Taiko drums are made from cowhide stretched over Japanese elm and traditionally have heads on both ends of the body. Standing perfectly balanced, legs stretched wide apart in front of the drum, except in Yatai Bayashi where the drummers lie on their backs, and dressed in dark camouflage fatigues with traditional Hachimaki headbands whilst wielding long bamboo drumsticks, the tracery of sound and light produced is nothing short of mesmerising. Mackie’s solo on the huge Odaiko where he uses every ounce of strength to produce thunderous sounds, with the drum face only two feet away from his own, represented not only the player’s personal battle to join the spirit of the drum but also epitomised taiko’s significance in Japanese martial arts. Although sometimes reminiscent of a circus spectacular this was an immaculately choreographed and pulsating performance of captivating and sonorous drumming.

The reverberations of Mugenkyo will remain long in the memory. By Roger Paine.