A Minute With: John Caird melds Ugandan dance, Japanese drums, U.S. chorus

Thu Mar 20, 2014 2:07am EDT
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) - Samurai, Ugandan dance, a U.S. chorus and the thunder of traditional Japanese taiko drums mix and meld in a cross-cultural charity collaboration to raise money for orphans around the world.

"At Home in the World", performed by Ugandan youth whose parents died from HIV/AIDS and Japanese young people who lost loved ones in the 2011 tsunami, as well as a chorus from Vassar College in the United States, is directed by award-winning Briton John Caird and was playing in Tokyo on Thursday.

The production - co-sponsored by Vassar and a Japanese charity that runs a Ugandan orphanage, among other activities - premiered recently in tsunami-hit northern Japan.

Caird, who has directed widely around the world and won several Tony Awards, spoke to Reuters about the production, which will tour globally in 2015.

Q: Any unexpected difficulties?

A: The difficult thing was teaching Ugandan children to sing in Western tonality because they do tribal shout singing, which doesn't actually land on any key...

But I suppose a bigger challenge was getting the Vassar students to behave like samurai. One of the big Tohoku (northeast Japan) drumming sequences is the heroic story about the effects of the tsunami and the samurai going off and sailing across the world to seek help.

At first, the Vassar students were walking across the stage like big bags of dough. They got taken in hand by the wadaiko trainer and he turned them into samurai. They look wonderful now.   Continued...