Drum TAO’s new rhythm-driven spectacular will make your heart race.

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Drum TAO produces dynamic performances that combine the powerful rhythm of Japanese taiko drumming with explosive choreography, martial arts and acrobatics. The group has performed at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and in front of millions of fans worldwide.

In February they will be bringing their new show, Drum Heart, to the Sony Centre for their third Toronto performance. Bento Box met up with veteran performer Taro Harasaki to learn about life as a member of Drum TAO.

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The show looks physically demanding—how do you maintain your physical condition?

It’s necessary to train every day to maintain the best body condition for being onstage. We have several training methods including running 12 kilometres in the morning and doing push-ups and sit-ups. Playing the drum is considered hard training, so we beat drums for an hour without breaks.

Do you get very tired during performances?

There is no time for us to feel tired during the show. We always feel an adrenalin rush because we are so busy switching the position of props and instruments during the performance. Since we have to do everything on our own, we also unload our instruments and props to the stage, set up the stage and load out after the show. When I shut the truck’s door after putting all the equipment away at the end of the show is the moment I feel most exhausted!

Have you ever been injured during a show?

It wasn’t during the performance. In the beginning when I [ first joined] TAO, I broke my neck while I was carrying the 30-kilogram drum at practice. I went home right away for recovery. Since I couldn’t move because I had a plaster cast on my neck, I practiced flute every single day. It is a funny story now.

What is it like to be on an international tour?

The best thing about going on an overseas tour is we get a chance to see landscapes and scenery you won’t be able to see in Japan, to feel other languages, cultures and different perspectives. We enjoy meeting enthusiastic fans who have different backgrounds than [ours]. Especially fans from North America as they are the most enthusiastic!

How did you first become interested in joining TAO?

My motivation for joining TAO was I thought there would be a bright future ahead of me! I joined TAO 13 years ago and back then, absolutely no experience of Japanese drums was required. However, TAO’s younger generation of drummers’ motives are different. Their drumming skills are extremely high, they have admired TAO since they were little and they have been practicing their skills in their hometown with dreams of becoming a top player.

What is it like rehearsing and training with the troupe?

Our hometown is located in the highlands so there is less oxygen than usual. That makes training even harder than you think. Since the training is so hard some trainees have run away during the night! Also before the tour of a new show, we do an intensive practice. You can hear the drumbeats all day long.

Are you involved in creating the performances?

Gradually I’m becoming a part of the creative team especially for the comedic parts. I can’t wait to show off my sense of humour to Toronto fans!

Do you have a professional role model that you look up to?

I admire the performances of Jim Carrey and Robin Williams who have both a sense of humour and intelligence. Since I play shamisen (Japanese three-stringed guitar), I also respect violinist Fernando Suarez Paz’s musical expression. I also get a lot of inspiration from Cirque du Soleil.

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TAO Drum Heart is coming to the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018. Tickets are available now. www.sonycentre.ca