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Taiko is an incredibly physical Japanese style of drumming which, when combined with precise stage movements, produces a spectacle of grace, power and technique. The Kobayakawa Suigun Drummers go one further, adding costume and masks to tell stories through music and dance - its like ballet with a hard, percussive edge.The 16 members of the Kobayakawa troupe use miyadaiko drums, each of them made to a specific design at Japanese temples. With the drums slung around the neck, the musicians movement and playing become a combination of two prized qualities: Wa (harmony) and Gaman (endurance).Complementing the drum rhythms in some of the groups pieces are chimes and the yakobue (flute). Where the speed and pitch of the drum is said to represent warriors preparing for battle, the chimes are likened to the wind, which the flute calms as the soldiers prepare to embark on their boats. Such imagery is also reflected in the groups name - Kobayakawa means small swift river, while Soigun translates as water warrior.The Kobayawaka groups music is written and choreographed by Tamanari Fujikawa and Mitsumari Edanga. Fujikawa says taiko is a reflection of the soul, a statement borne out by pieces such as Kijin to Hana, where the male spirit (Tengu) and the female spirit (Hanya) try to outdo each other. In such pieces, its not just the power of the drums that isimportant - quieter musical conversations between two drums, emphasised by movement and mask, add extra emotional dimensions.This performance comes as part of the Hiroshima-based troupes first UK visit. On this short tour they will also be accompanied at some shows by Joji Hirota, a master percussionist whose shows at this festival over the past decade have left his audience awed, amazed and generally thunderstruck.