Taiko Drummers to bring entertainment with a bang Friday

Forget that classic title of "Bang the Drum Slowly."

The Columbus-based Southern Indiana Taiko drums up plenty of rhythmic enthusiasm with a sometimes caffeinated cadence. You want boom, baby?

You will have come to the right place at 6 p.m. Friday for "Drums On the Plaza" at the Bartholomew County Public Library Plaza, 536 Fifth St. in downtown Columbus. The six-member volunteer ensemble will perform on barrel-shaped drums — hence the Japanese term Taiko — for about 40 minutes. The performance also will be livestreamed on the Facebook page for the Bartholomew County Public Library.

The group’s leaders serve as sound examples that far Eastern culture can be, well, far out artistically. Director Gail Nowels and marketing director Tina Lockhart are serious enough about their art and craft that they received an Eli Lilly Fellowship Grant in 2018 to study in Japan with a Taiko master.

But Nowels regularly adds one disclaimer to her trained expertise.

"Everyone has a sense of rhythm," she said. "Because everyone has a heartbeat."

At functions ranging from the local Ethnic Expo international festival to Seymour’s Oktoberfest, some audience members’ heartbeats have been known to race with a bit of adrenaline as ensemble members perform with a focused precision and pageantry.

And considerable volume. Call it percussion with no shushin’.

"It’s a very emotionally healing activity," Nowels said. "It’s very good for your brain. And it’s a very good activity for your body because it’s so physical. Plus, it’s also very spiritual."

The local group, previously known as Rhythm Conspiracy, was founded in 2006 by Mary Quantrall, a world drummer, dancer and self-labeled soul-seeker. Upon her retirement in 2009, she donated all of her African and middle eastern drums to Nowels, who was one of her students.

Under Nowels leadership, the group has evolved from a recreational group studying "world drumming" to a full-fledged Taiko performance group. Members have built their own Taiko drums out of re-purposed whiskey barrels and Nowels designs and constructs their costumes.

The group attends Taiko workshops throughout the United States to continue to refine skills and connect with other Taiko enthusiasts around the world. They are one of only two Taiko groups in Indiana, and perform at festivals, fairs, corporate events and private parties. The group has performed for Eli Lilly and Co., Cummins Inc., Johnson County Public Library, Indianapolis International Fest, and other events throughout Indiana.

‚Äč"Kids especially love it," Nowels said.

The group practices and leads classes for all ages on Ruddick Avenue at its studio space sponsored by Curt and Michelle Aton. Nowels acknowledged that she hardly had the beat when she first began.

"But I believe," she said, "that it’s really something that anyone can learn."

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Who: The local Southern Indiana Taiko performing a 45-minute presentation on Japanese drumming.

When: 6 p.m. Friday.

Where: Bartholomew County Public Library Plaza, 536 Fifth St. in downtown Columbus. Also livestreamed on the Facebook page for the Bartholomew County Public Library.

Admission: Free.

Information: 812-379-1266 or mybcpl.org

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