Masa Ogawa on bringing The Wings of Phoenix to England

Photo: Jan de Wild

Taiko drumming is a centuries-old tradition in Japanese culture, and the drummers of YAMATO continue to challenge the boundaries of what it can be. They push themselves to their absolute limits and leave audiences breathless in the process.

After a successful run at the Peacock in 2019, YAMATO return to London in 2024 with their latest show. This new work marks the 30th anniversary of the company and celebrates the group’s tours and performances in around 54 different countries and regions, with over 4,500 performances that reached almost 8 million people.

Ahead of their performances, YAMATO founder, Masa Ogawa, talks with us about what it’s like to be bringing the show to London.

Q&A with Masa Ogawa

What is the show about?

For our upcoming shows in London, YAMATO presents The Wings of Phoenix. The powerful and warm booming sound of the Taiko drums, likened to a heartbeat, awaits you. We hope to share with everyone gathered at the Peacock Theatre the energy of “rising like a phoenix amidst various challenges.” After the show, let that energy fill your hearts and bodies, as we deliver performances that will empower you for tomorrow.

Are you excited to bring the show to London?

Since its formation in 1993, YAMATO has performed over 4,500 shows in 54 countries across 30
years. Among these experiences, our performance in London holds a special place. This is because London stands as one of the world’s greatest hubs for performing arts and entertainment. Perhaps
it’s the sense of “taking on a challenge” that adds to the anticipation. Despite being seasoned performers, there’s an overwhelming nervousness among us as we prepare for the show. Yet, there’s also an equal amount of excitement. We are currently touring in the Netherlands and we aim to bring an even more polished performance to excite the people of London.

Photo: Wolfgang Koch

What is your role in the show?

I am the founder of YAMATO and have been performing for 30 years. I also create compositions and
direct the show.

When did you start YAMATO?

I founded the company in 1993 and have more than 30 years of experience in Taiko drumming.

What can audiences expect?

YAMATO is dedicated to spreading vitality and energy to people everywhere, no matter where they
are in the world. From newborns to those over a hundred years old, we’ve met countless of
individuals. Our impact goes beyond anything energy drinks or vitamins can offer, especially for
those who might be feeling a bit weary and tired- our audiences can expect to walk away feeling

Why should people come to the show?

The power of the Taiko drums’ sound is extraordinary. From delicate echoes that resonate with the
soul to thunderous booms that pierce through the body, the sound of the Taiko drums has been
rumbling in this world since ancient times, akin to the beating heart of the Earth. It harmonises with
the rhythm of your heartbeat, pulsating through your body.

The largest drum has a diameter of nearly 2 meters and weighs around 500 kilograms. Various
types and sizes of drums line the stage. They are played by the YAMATO Drummers, who have
honed their skills both physically and mentally. It’s an indescribable sensation that defies imagination.

YAMATO perform The Wings of Phoenix at Sadler’s Wells, London from 4 to 22 June 2024