By The Nation
The Rhythmic drumming, perfectly choreographed exchanges, breathless pauses and explosive atmosphere all leave the audience stunned as wave after wave of musical percussion engulfs the performance space with its sheers power and musicality.
If rhythm fuels your musical taste, this is one performance by Taiwan’s Ju Percussion Group you cannot afford to miss. The group will be in Thailand on September 16 as part of Bangkok’s 20th International Festival of Dance and Music, which runs from September 12 to October 18.
Famous for their innovative blend of East and West, traditional and contemporary, Ju Percussion Group’s latest production, “Stunning Virtuosity”, is extremely compelling.
The concert features specially commissioned works that weave rhythms and patterns on large drums, gongs, marimbas, Chinese drums, cymbals, timpani, vibraphone and all kinds of percussive instruments.
The show is full of modern, experimental and cross-disciplinary elements that transcend the boundaries between classical, modern, world, pop and other genres.
The Bangkok performance features renowned pipa soloist Pei-Ling Chung from the Taipei Chinese Orchestra.
With a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Chung is famous for her handling of the four-stringed instrument: delicate and mellow, adding a wonderful counterpoint to powerful percussive beats. Though Ju Percussion Group’s music is rooted in contemporary Western percussion music, expect to hear distinct threads of traditional eastern culture woven in. They’ve commissioned around 200 pieces over the 30-plus years of their existence. And in Bangkok they will showcase a varied selection that will underline their mastery of different genres.
The touring setlist includes stellar pieces like “3 Epilogues” (by Gerard Lecointe), “J Effect” (Huan-wei Lu), “Solar Myth” (Chiung-ying Chang), “Zhong Kui Marrying His Sister Off” (Yu-yun Liu), “Espiritu Libre” (Stephen Whibley) |and "Drumming Fest” (Hong-chi Ho).
The group has taken its brand to more than 30 countries, including Austria, Britain, the US, Germany, China and Hungary. It has also performed at major international events like Quartier D’ete in Paris, the Budapest Spring Festival, the 2005 World Exposition in Japan and the Chekhov International Theatre Festival in Moscow.
Founded by Ju Tzong-ching in 1986, the group currently features 15 talented percussionists and one composer-in-residence who are all masters of Western percussion instruments as well as Chinese gong drums and other Asian traditional music.
Ju, who is also the artistic director, has played a significant role in enhancing public interest in percussion music in Taiwan. In 1992 he established the Ju Percussion Music School. “It hasn’t been easy, but the support and encouragement of audiences made the impossible possible,” he says.
Although trained in Western percussion, he realised that drawing on traditional music was a powerful resource when attempting to promote percussion music locally in Taiwan. It also helped establish Taiwan’s percussion music on the world stage.
There, Ju took the group out of the urban concert hall and into public spaces, to temple courtyards and school campuses in rural areas. He makes his music readily accessible to the public. “Percussion is the earliest instrumental form in human history,” he points out. “It’s close to the beating of the human heart, so anyone can relate to it.”
Soon the group became a household name and they hold three grand concerts every year to demonstrate their creativity. This is one of the few ensembles with their own exclusive composers.
To Ju, this percussion is also about “Taiwan reaching out to the world”. For his artistic excellence, he has received numerous honours, including the National Award for Arts (Taiwan’s highest honour ). The Percussive Arts Society in the US awarded him the Outstanding Contribution Award four times and in 2015 he received the Order of Brilliant Star with Violet Grand Cordon from the president of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou. In 2016 he was inducted by the Percussive Arts Society into its Hall of Fame.
Supporting the festival are Crown Property Bureau, Bangkok |Bank, Bangkok Dusit Medical Services, BMW Thailand, |B Grimm Group, Dusit Thani Bangkok, Indorama Ventures, Ministry of Culture, Nation |Group, Major Cineplex, PTT, Singha Corp, Thai Union |Group, Thai Airways International and Tourism Authority of Thailand
“Stunning Virtuosity” by Ju Percussion Group will be staged at the Thailand Cultural Centre on September 16 at 7.30pm. Tickets cost Bt1,000 to Bt2,500 at www.ThaiTicketMajor.com and (02) 262 3191.
For more information visit www.BangkokFestivals.com.