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Show Review 2007

Mount Shasta feels the beat

Ancient drumming art draws 1,000

August 2007
Siskiyou Daily News
by Jamie Gentner

Shasta Taiko Photo: Gary Ono

Residents of and visitors to Mount Shasta on Saturday, Aug. 4, experienced a little taste of Japanese culture as they listened to the beat of drums under the stars at Shastice Park.

The third annual ShastaYama Taiko Festival attracted about 1,000 people this year.

Gates opened at 6 p.m. Saturday, and as people slowly trickled in, they were entertained prior to the main event with Indian-style music by Pangia, belly dancing and jazz music by Rick and Ted.

Then, at 8 p.m., the taiko began.

The event is organized by Russel Baba and Jeanne Mercer - both taiko artists - and dedicated "in remembrance of all the victims of mankind's wars and to peace for our planet," according to the concert's program.

Shasta Taiko Photo: Gary Ono

During the show that lasted over two hours, the audience was treated to the poweful drumbeats, soothing whistle of flutes and dynamic dances that had almost everyone on the field bobbing their head, tapping their feet or swaying with the rhythm.

One conertgoer, Ann Christina, could only descibe the experience as "awesome."

Masato Baba Photo: Gary Ono

She noted the intense passion and energy in the show, which was demonstrated at one point by Masato Baba, who beat a large drum so hard that the stand began to scoot backwards, requiring his father to brace it while he finished his solo.

Chistina, who lives just blocks from the park, said she has heard the echoes of the concert at her house for years, but this was the first time she went to the event.

"I'm so glad I got the chance to come," she said. "They show so much passion and energy that it's inspiring. I'm ecstatic at the chance to see it."

Christina even said she was considering taking taiko lessons with Russel and Mercer.

Mercer said she received several similar compliments about the performance.

Ethan Catlin - Shasta Taiko Photo: Gary Ono

"We were very happy with the artistic quality of the performance. With the exciting and colorful performance, our artistic vision was fulfilled. We are always pleased to be able to present would class artists to this area," Mercer said. "People seemed to enjoy the variety presented in the concert - with the taiko, dancing, melodic elements with the flute and saxophone, and more costuming this year."

Distance Floating - Shasta Taiko Photo: Gary Ono

Mercer also noted the expansion and improvement of this year's event. The pre-concert entertainment was added, more food and beverages were offered, more community members were involved in the show and more volunteers worked together to make the event happen.

"The entire event went off really well," Mercer said. "It's something we hope to continue and look forward to expanding each year if people continue to support it."

Chizuko Endo, Kenny Endo Photo: Gary Ono

In addition to Russel, Mercer and Shasta Taiko members Wanda Welbourn, Julie Bennett, Annie Mesa, Kelsey Demarest, Rebecca Duff, Ethan Catlin, Jessica Catlin and Eli Marconi, the concert featured guest artists, Kenny Endo, Masato Baba, Michelle Fujii, and Toru Watanabe.

Michelle Fujii, Toru Watanabe Photo: Jim Gilmore