Taiko Meantime Drummers


If you watch the London Marathon from the Charlton end of Greenwich, I’ll bet anything you like that you’ve ended up just having to find out what those bursts of booming sound are whenever another pulse of runners go by. It took me a couple of years to actually wander up there from my usual position, but now that I know where the Taiko Meantime Drummers are, I make sure I pay them a visit every year now.

There are about 12 performers in this troupe of crazed percussionists, throwing themselves into walloping massive drums in time with each other in the name of art. To someone like me who’s only just staggered out of bed, the energy that these guys throw into performing is, in its own way, every bit as hefty as that of the runners hurtling past them. I have to say they’d look more in place at Glastonbury than under the A102(M) flyover, but they still cut one hell of a caper and they’re our local taiko drummers for local people…

They were formed by Mark Alcock who studied in Japan under some of the finest masters, including Katsuji Kondo, of the incredible Kodo drummers in 2001 and have created an act that’s exhilarating and exhausting in equal measures. Although they’re based in Greenwich (at a secret headquarters that is not mentioned on their website – or indeed, anywhere I can find. Maybe they’re down in Jack Cade’s Cavern – has there been any creepy rumbling of late, I wonder?) they travel all over the world and bowl up on TV and at festivals. They’ve sold out at major theatres in London and been involved with projects across Europe.

They run public workshops for all ages – which usually seem to be connected with festivals and events as far as I can see, schools sessions, and corporate team-building events – not something you’d catch me at.

And if all this whets your appetite, they are always looking for new people – but not just anyone. Just one look at their auditions page would be enough to put most people off – and I guess that that’s the idea. They want the kind of energy, commitment, physical strength, and – well, lunacy, that only a few (12, it would seem) people posess. Check it out just for a laugh – and if you can actually say “yes” to questions that include “Do you play a musical instrument or have experience of a martial art?” “Do you have a good knowledge of the UK taiko scene?” and, the one that would kill me, “Are you willing to load and unload drums at very unsociable hours?” then you may just have found yourself a second career.

For the rest of us, here’s a date for your diary. November 1st, they will be debuting their new show at Greenwich Theatre. And there’s always the Marathon.

May the force be with them…

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