An inter-disciplinary theatre production about a shamaness-queen who ruled ancient Japan two millennia ago and a concert featuring the thunderous sounds of taiko, a type of traditional Japanese drumming, are among the highlights at the Esplanade's upcoming Super Japan Festival next month.
Queen Himiko, whose name means Sun Child, is a towering mythical figure in Japanese history. She was believed to possess divine powers, which she used to control the kingdoms.
Her story will be re-imagined in a show of song and dance at Himiko: Memories Of The Sun Goddess. The production is jointly put on by The Esplanade and Japan's Suntory Hall, a concert hall complex in Tokyo which first staged it in 2014.
Cellist Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, 73, one of the musicians who will perform here on May 20, told The Straits Times: "Himiko marks the beginning of our country, which is why we chose it."
The multi-disciplinary show was conceived by four Japanese artists - kabuki actor Fukusuke Nakamura, composer Yoshihiro Kanno, violinist Yasuko Otani and shamisen player Mojibei Tokiwazu.
It combines traditional Western and Japanese music, with Japanese art forms such as kabuki theatre, as well as shomyo, a style of Japanese Buddhist chanting.
VIEW IT / KODO & HIBIKIYA: FESTIVAL OPENING TAIKO CONCERT
WHERE: Esplanade Outdoor Theatre, 1 Esplanade Drive
WHEN: May 13, 7.15pm
INFO: Go to www.esplanade.com/superjapan
HIMIKO: MEMORIES OF THE SUN GODDESS
WHERE: Esplanade Concert Hall, 1 Esplanade Drive
WHEN: May 20, 7.30pm
ADMISSION: $38 to $88 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to sistic.com.sg)
Tsutsumi, who is also president of Suntory Hall, says: "We have never put all these things together into one performance before. It will involve a Buddhist chorus of 16 monks chanting, as well as dancing based on kabuki theatre."
The Super Japan Festival commemorates 50 years of diplomatic ties between Singapore and Japan with plays, concerts and storytelling sessions.
It opens on May 13 with a free taiko concert. The performance is a joint one by Hibikiya, a Singapore- based taiko drum and instrumental group, and Kodo, a professional taiko group from Japan, which is performing here for the first time.
It will be accompanied by dancing and traditional instruments such as the shinobue, a type of Japanese flute; and the shamisen, a three-stringed Japanese lute.
Hibikiya's founder, Ms Namiko Sakai, 42, says: "Audiences can catch famous traditional pieces such as Miyake Taiko and Chichibu Yatai Bayashi. The playing style appears simple, but every stroke of the drumsticks comes with hours of vigorous training to encompass the spirit and essence of the pieces."