Japanese drummers thunder onto Sheldon stage in Red Wing

Body: 

The thundering sounds of taiko drums will fill the Sheldon Theatre when Ondekoza, a world-famous drumming ensemble from Japan, performs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10.

The concert will culminate a full week of community engagement by the group, which is participating in the Arts Midwest World Fest.

"Fusing incredible athleticism, pounding rhythms and peaceful melodies, their performances will leave you inspired and energized," according to Sheldon officials, describing the group as "an unforgettable creative force that has captivated audiences across the globe."

Ondekoza was formed in 1969 in Japan. The drummers live together in the city of Fuji, where they run and drum at the base of Mount Fuji.

"At the foundation of Ondekoza's style is a unique combination of physical fitness, running and drumming," their spokesperson said. This philosophy is called "sogakuron," where "running and drumming are one, and a reflection of the drama and energy of life."

The group has undertaken numerous world tours. On a 1975 U.S. tour, the drummers completed the Boston Marathon then immediately ran onstage to present a full concert.

Ondekoza performances focus on the taiko drums, which are traditional instruments in different sizes and styles. Another folk instrument that will be featured is the "shakuhachi," a traditional bamboo flute.

Taiko is a physically demanding discipline, and often is described as a performance of dance as well as drumming.

"There is a choreography to the way they drum," explained Ken Carlson, Arts Midwest's senior director for international programs. He encouraged audiences to take note of the movement on stage as well as the sound.

Ondekoza's upcoming visit is the second of four international programs that will come to Red Wing as part of the World Fest, Carlson noted.

Since 2003, Arts Midwest has been bringing international music ensembles to smaller Midwest communities for intensive week-long residencies. Their purpose is to foster an understanding of and appreciation for global uniqueness and differences.

Each cycle of the World Fest occurs over a two-year period. Carlson said that one community is chosen in each of the nine participating states in this region. Those communities host four international ensembles during that period.

The week-long visits offer mutual benefits, Carlson said. As ensembles share their culture and experiences with the community, the musicians learn what other people and places are like and develop personal relationships.

Among reasons Red Wing was selected for the current cycle are support from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Sheldon's interest in being a host site, and support from one of the program's major sponsors, 3M, which has a presence here.

A fourth supporter of the World Fest is the Japan Foundation, Carlson added. The relationship with that group is a key element in the ongoing success of the program.

The first program in the current World Fest cycle was presented here last fall by Sofi and the Baladis from Israel. World Fest will continue in fall of 2018 with a visit from a Chinese group, Manhu, and the global cycle will conclude in spring of 2019 with a residency featuring a Norwegian singer, Unni Boksasp, and her ensemble.

When Ondekoza finishes its week in Red Wing, the drummers will move on to Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota and North Dakota. The group will return in spring of 2019 for another month of residencies.

Tickets to the Feb. 10 concert are $20 for adults, $10 for students, and free to one child under 14 with the purchase of an adult ticket.

For more information, call 651-388-8700 or go online to www.sheldontheatre.org.