Traffic series performers move to a world beat

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Chicago Sun-Times
May 9, 2008
BY PAIGE WISER Staff Reporter

Steppenwolf Theatre’s Traffic series presents one-night-only performances — but they pack a punch you won’t soon forget. The May lineup continues the theme of what it means to be an American with a fittingly diverse group of Chicago artists.

This is storytelling through hip-hop theater, avant-garde jazz combined with taiko drumming and dance fiesta.

Here’s the schedule:

Tatsu Aoki’s Miyumi Project: East Meets the Rest (7:30 tonight)

Taiko drumming is similar to synchronized college drum lines. Just add a couple thousand years of history and subtract the marching.

Aoki has worked with pretty much every jazz artist in Chicago; he’s recorded more than 100 albums. With his Miyumi Project, the bassist collaborates with a multigenerational band that includes African Americans. But the taiko drumbeat is an integral part of his Japanese heritage.

“What it means to be an Asian American is the most important essence of my work in general,” Aoki says.

It’s music that belongs in the “world” category, he says, and is a visual experience.

“I tell people, ‘Come and see the music.’”