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Taikoz and Lingalayam present

Chi Udaka


Australia Tour

India Tour

Riverside Parramatta Canberra Theatre NIDA Sydney Bathurst Memorial Tamworth Capitol Port Macquarie Glasshouse Brisbane Powerhouse

Chennai Vishakhapatnam Hyderabad Mumbai

Watch the Performance Chi Udaka - Parade Theatre, NIDA, Sydney on 22nd July 2016


Chi Udaka a world where Japanese music and Indian dance joyfully combine JILL SYKES The Sydney Morning Herald - JUNE 26 2016 Chi means earth in Japanese. Udaka is the Sanskrit word for water. The two come together in a joyful celebration that joins traditions in Japanese music and Indian dance in a contemporary collaboration that is charged with vitality and immediacy without losing the sense of its ancient sources. The dance comes from Anandavalli’s company, Lingalayam, based on the Indian classical forms of bharatha natyam and kuchipudi, and celebrating its 20th year. The music is made by Taikoz, founded in 1997 by drummer Ian Cleworth and shakuhachi player Riley Lee, who were both performing on Saturday in a program that illustrates the group’s core business of taiko drumming and its extension to other instruments – in this case, a variety of flutes and cello. The scenario is simple: a day in the life, beginning in peaceful meditation and prayer before dawn, building up to some dynamic action and ending in loving communion at midnight. The collaboration of sound is soon established, with Anandavalli introducing the crisp chanted language of Indian dance rhythms and the drums responding.

From there, music and dance mostly combine, the five dancers picking up speed and a feisty approach that sometimes suggests they know Bollywood is not far away. There is a tangible sense of communication and fun, with some serious moments thrown in. These include beautiful shakuhachi and dance solos that stand out amongst duets and ensembles ranging from elegantly cool to high energy, all of them full of character. And the drummers, male and female, also dance – in bounding leaps, partnering their outsize drums in full cry. Sets are simple and effective – filmy curtains, racks of burning candles in jars – and costumes are rich yet subdued, with subtle details. The production is slick, with just two complaints that will probably be adjusted after opening night: a spotlight into the audience that was blinding, and some overlong pauses early on that slowed the impetus. It’s good to know this vibrant show, matching integrity with entertainment, is off on a five-week tour to four capitals, four regional cities and a return to Sydney at NIDA on July 22. Tell your friends.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


Chi Udaka: A spectacle in sensuality S.B. Vijaya Mary The Hindu- DECEMBER 4 2016 ‘Chi Udaka’, presented as part of The Hindu November Fest was a cultural confluence Picture this. The gentle, yet forceful wave charging towards the sand, lingering for a moment before flowing back into the sea. The earth-water harmony is special and beautiful. A dialogue between the taiko drummers and Bharatanatyam dancers was just as enchanting. Chi (earth in Japanese), Udaka (water in Sanskrit) is a seamless synthesis of rhythm and movement. A co-production of Sydney-based Taikoz and Lingalayam, Chi Udaka also featured breathtaking shakuhachi flute by Riley Lee and John Napier’s cello, which switched effortlessly in accompanying taiko beats to Aruna Parthiban’s Carnatic vocals. Performing at Ravindra Bharati, Hyderabad, as part of The Hindu November Fest 2016, Chi Udaka gave the houseful audience an experience that will not fade soon. The 80-minute show beautifully traversed a journey from dawn to dusk and beyond to

culminate in a harmonious midnight finale. A cello heralding the early morning sun rays, the drummers building up a crescendo made a picture perfect scenario for the spectacle that was to follow. The performers brought and placed diyas strategically, creating a beautiful ambience. Arriving on stage with her nattuvangam cymbals, Anandavalli initiated a dialogue with the drummers with her beats. The taiko drummers pounded their drums in response. They were joined by the dancers and what followed was a sheer brilliance of drumming, dance and a delightful play of light and shade. The taiko drummers’ hands moved with such lightning speed that the movement became a blur. Uncompromising in their grammar and idiom, the dancers displayed the expanse of their form, while the taiko drummers stopped time with their energetic strokes. The performers made the Chi-Udaka communion lovelier than ever.

Collaboration of cultures I had to collaborate’-Anandavalli Anandavalli, the founder-director of the 20-year-old Lingalayam Dance Academy in Sydney, has trained three generations of dancers at her institution. A Sri Lankan by birth, she cut her teeth in dance in Europe and migrated to Australia in the 80s. But dance has always been a constant. Her disciplinarian mother got Anandavalli train under three different gurus so that she could absorb different schools of art. At the age of 9, she trained under Kuchipudi guru Vempati Chinna Satyam. After an amazing dancing career in Europe, moving to Australia wasn’t a particularly exciting experience for Anandavalli. “It felt I landed myself in a barren and deserted land with no clue of what my dancing career would


Chi Udaka: A spectacle in sensuality cont. be like. Slowly the Indian community got to know that I’m a dancer and I was bullied into teaching their children, I started slowly with a few students in my garage. But once I decided to teach, I established Lingalayam with a vision to produce professional dancers. I teach my students the way I was taught – with total commitment towards art and its continuation,” says the renowned dancer, guru and choreographer. After numerous choreographies of episodes derived from mythology and epics, Anandavalli felt she was ready for collaboration to enhance her art. She says when she first heard Riley Lee play shakuhachi and Ian Cleworth with his taiko drums she was blown away by the purity and magic of their instruments and the idea to collaborate with them took shape. When I first took the proposal to Mr. Sean Kelly

(Australian Consul-General, south), there was magic, but now, it has gone beyond that, and it is sheer beauty and entertainment, she says. ‘I hope to be reborn in India’-Riley Lee Riley Lee is the Shakuhachi Grand Master who can create loudest impact with his sublime silence through his instrument. He might demur that he “just plays the flute”, but when Riley starts playing this rather different version of the Indian flute, he looks like he’s mediating but set to create a storm any moment. He laughs it off by saying, “The reason I enjoy this so much may have to do with the fact that my instrument produces music that’s a lot similar to traditional Indian music. This collaboration has been easy for me. I didn’t have to deal with these massive instruments. I just show up and play my instrument.”


Riley’s India connect seems to be deep rooted; he first heard Indian music at the age of 15. “I liked what I heard but at 15 I felt it was too late to learn. I have to hope that if I’m reborn into an Indian family, then I can hear the music even before I’m born and can start studying then.” He’s besides himself with excitement about Chi Udaka, he says. “Music touches humans in a way that transcends our everyday experience. I hate to use the word spiritual... it’s something else, my music tradition does that and Indian music tradition does that. This collaboration is a dream for me because I know in this lifetime I can never become an Indian musician, but I can share my music in an atmosphere and environment that has a bit of Indian music in my small way.”

It was a trust game’-Lee Mciver

Synthesis of cultures-Ian Cleworth

Despite thinking he had a “beautiful job on hand”, when asked to produce Chi Udaka, Lee Mciver was not unaware of the challenges he had to face. “To make people understand what we are doing was of course a big challenge. So it had to be a trust game.”

Ian Cleworth travelled to Japan when he was 19 and the experience of living and studying taiko had an enormous influence on him. “I couldn’t transplant Japanese music into Australia..that would be kind of false, it was part of their culture and didn’t relate to ours.

Explaining the rather extensive use of lighting for the production, Lee Mciver says, “The production has small tender moments in between and they weren’t being properly framed in theatrical sense. So I had to use the lighting and design to fill in and yet take it up to same quality. We never want the design and light to upstage music and dance though.”

Then I met Riley who said we could actually take the instruments and the influence and all of the knowledge and expertise we’ve learnt from the Japanese masters and make something new out of that which reflects who we are as contemporary Australian musicians, so that’s kind of had us start Taikoz.”


Taikoz’ workshops have become popular among school children and the general community in Australia. Ian who is an artistic director of Taikoz says, “Our students aged from 6 to 60 come from varied cultural backgrounds. We make them aware of the root culture, which is Japan. Taiko enthusiasts should know where these instruments come from.” Taking pride in the fact that women drummers are part of Taikoz, Ian says, “Taiko by its nature is a very physical form of making rhythm and playing drums. Some of the traditional styles in Japan are men only but it’s changing now. Lot of women are playing taiko now... it’s important to have that balance between male and female energy. Women play just as powerful as men.”

For Chi Udaka, the music had its genesis in south Indian classical music. Says Ian, “Anandavalli introduced me to Indian music that accompanies dance. I notated that in my western musical notation, checked out phrases that work well for taiko drums and came up with an 80-page score.”


Moving and memorable, a masterful work of beauty and power KATIE LAVERS Arts Hub - JUNE 27 2016 Chi Udaka brings together Japanese traditional percussion, shakuhachi (Japanese flute), Indian classical vocals, cello, Indian classical dance forms and martial arts based choreography. Out of this unlikely mix comes a performance that is quite simply stunning. Taikoz with Lingalayam have come together to create an astonishing work. A remount of the 2014 Sydney Festival show, this 2016 show has new movement sequences and new music sections, and the work brings a fresh and exciting dimension to the sense of the enormous potential inherent in intercultural performance. It is truly a privilege to see artists of this calibre perform together. The dancers are wonderful, and in addition, the costumes and the lighting are perfect. Riley Lee’s masterful shakuhachi playing creates a space of focus that seems to allow the artists to hear, see, and respond to each other with intense clarity, and to begin to cross boundaries in a way that, while respecting the tradition and the origin of individual disciplines, allows something innovative to be created. The combination of different cultural forms becomes simply breathtaking, creating synergies

and juxtapositions of sounds, rhythms and images that are unique and original. The highpoint of Chi Udaka comes at the end when the extraordinary performer Anandavalli herself comes to the centre of the stage and with simple expressive gestures conveys the openness, the generosity of spirit, and the meeting point in shared humanity that lies at the heart of this performance, and many audience members found themselves moved to tears. Chi Udaka features musicians and dancers of the highest possible calibre and acts as a celebration of the human ability to transcend cultural boundaries and find a shared language of rare beauty and power. Chi Udaka is wonderful - evocative, moving, and truly memorable. This show is not to be missed.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


Japanese taiko combine with South Indian classical dance in a cross-cultural feast for the senses ELISE LAWRENCE Limelight - JUNE 26 2016 Taikoz’s Japanese drums come together with the intricate movements of Australian-Indian dance company Lingalayam for Chi Udaka – a celebration of music, dance and the forces of nature. Combining the strength and solidity of earth (‘chi’ in Japanese) in the taiko players and the fluidity of water (‘udaka’ in Sanskrit) through the movements of the Lingalayam dancers, this unique production celebrates life through these elements as they occur in a single day. The performance opened slowly, with the soft sounds of Riley Lee’s shakuhachi – a Japanese end-blown flute – blending with John Napier’s cello and Aruna Pathiban’s classical Indian vocals, invoking the dawning of a new day. Microphone issues detracted from the overall effect, as technicians adjusted volume levels mid-performance and interrupted the held notes of Pathiban’s melodious singing. The performance gained intensity as it progressed, mesmerising audiences with the perfect timing of the taiko drums. The players were in time even at incredible speeds, their arms a blur in the air, and the rhythm

rumbled through the floor and the audience in their seats. The bells attached to the costumes of the dancers added an extra element of percussion to the music, and their footwork was consistently in time with the rising and falling beat of the drums, although their arms and other movements were occasionally less synchronised. Taiko drummers are often associated with earth, and their wide-legged stance is reflective of their connection with the earth, keeping them balanced. The Lingalayam dancers brought both chi udaka elements together, exhibiting all the softness and fluidity of water, as well as the strength and solidity of earth. Where in classical ballet fingers are more of an extension of the arm, in Indian classical dance the quick, intricate movement of the fingers and hands is equally as important as the feet and has its own separate choreography to the rest of the arm. Adding to the jovial atmosphere, the whole cast seemed to be genuinely enjoying their performance – the drummers smiled at each other as the dancers whirled past and wove between them. It is always more enjoyable to be an audience member when the performers are enjoying themselves as much as you are.

The Lingalayam dancers’ costumes were designed by guru and Artistic Director Anandavalli – they wore spectacular saris, all in different earthy shades of green, red and orange, and glittering headpieces. The taiko players’ costumes, designed by Alissa Bruce, were simpler and also in earthy browns and greys. Portable props and set elements designed by Bart Groen added an extra layer of movement to the performance, as dancers and drummers wheeled cabinets across the floor and unrolled mats without detracting from the overall performance. Lighting design by Karen Norris complemented the sets to create leafy forest scenes, or turned the dancing mat in the centre of the stage from a burning midday sun to a cool midnight moon. Twinkling star nets and cabinets of candle-filled jars completed the transition to evening onstage. Chi Udaka is an engaging performance that will delight audiences of all ages with its unique, multifaceted approach to storytelling.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Dance to a different beat SUBHA J RAO Metro Plus- NOVEMBER 21 2016 Indian classical met Japanese rhythm in Chi Udaka, a celebration of cultures Saturday evening taught us many things. That silence too holds within its hallowed space notes so profound, tunes so soulful. That light could be a performer by itself, drawing you into its brightness and shadows, making you part of the magic on stage. Chi Udaka is an experience, an emotion. How do you explain it when varied cultures hold a conversation so sublime, so intense that the lines blur and they become a seamless whole? Be it the graceful, energetic drummers from Australiabased Taikoz, who made the Japanese percussion their very own, the dancers from Lingalayam who stuck to tradition while exploring the possibilities of form and movement, or Riley Lee, whose soul-stirring performance on the shakuhachi showed you why he was the first non-Japanese grandmaster of the flute, each one

of them worked in tandem to leave you amazed at the sheer dexterity and heart with which the show had been put together.

The show opened with a glowing stage, with arches bearing a lone flickering lamp, courtesy set designer Bart Groen.

John Napier on the cello showcased the versatility of the instrument, which effortlessly swung between Indian and Western notes and Aruna Parthiban’s raga inflections lent the show an Indianness that appealed to most. John Cleworth’s electronica score was prerecorded and played back.

The graceful dancers worked within the confines of the stage to create a sense of space and limitless expanse. At some times, they leapt across the stage like lightning; at others, they were like graceful friezes from temple art.

Chi refers to the Earth, and Udaka to water; the show lived up to the name, rooted as it was in different cultures while traversing the fluid spaces between the two. In previous interviews, show co-creators Ian Cleworth and Anandavalli have spoken of how the show is both spirited and serene at the same time, and how their endeavour has been to put together something captivating to the eye and ear. They stuck to their brief, and how!

The taiko artistes were poetry on stage, and enhanced the show with the ease with which they moved from one instrument to another, and the speed with which they played a drum steeped in Japanese culture. When the nearly 75-minute-long show concluded, you could only think of Riley Lee and the quote of Rumi that propels him: ‘Remember the lips where the wind-breath originated, and let your note be clear. Don’t try to end it. Be your note.’ Chi Udaka was that note. Honest and clear.


Chi Udaka Australian Tour 2016 MATTHEW RAVEN The Buzz - JUNE 28 2016 If you’ve never witnessed the Japanese drumming style of Taiko or Indian dance and rhythm, you’re missing out. Being able to witness them combined is an extra bonus and truly an opportunity not to be missed. Chi Udaka (Chi being the Japanese word for Earth and Udaka, the Sanskrit word for water) is a brilliant blend of music, art and dance designed by Taikoz and Australian-Indian dance company Lingalayam. Opening with a brooding drone on the cello, the night quickly progresses to include a drum ensemble, five beautiful dancers, a shakuhachi performer (Japanese woodwind instrument) and a classical Indian vocalist.

This night is an explosion of spectacle, music, art and creativity. Everything from the performances to the lighting and set design has been meticulously planned to reflect the natural influences of the compositions. Despite some minor technical issues, nothing could dampen the audience’s enthusiasm for the left-of-centre concert and the night ended with a vigorous standing ovation for all involved. In a time when xenophobia, racism and media-hyped suspicion of other cultures and practices are growing ominously more powerful, these artistic representations of cultural integration become ever more important to the stability of our society.


For enquires please contact Lee McIver General Manager Synergy & Taikoz Ltd. +61 (2)9557 5842 lee@synergyandtaikoz.com

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