To look at him, you wouldn’t guess that Doudou N’Diaye Rose is pushing 80. The Senegalese master percussionist stomps and dances around the stage with an energy befitting someone a quarter his age as he conducts drum ensembles of up to 100 members.

Whether it’s the 500-odd new rhythms he claims to have invented, or the 38 children he’s said to have fathered, there’s never been any question of doing things by halves in the course of N’Diaye Rose’s fertile career. Last year, he received the ultimate accolade when Senegal declared him a Living Human Treasure.

Born into a musical lineage, N’Diaye Rose nevertheless had to overcome staunch opposition from his family to pursue his chosen vocation. His father was a chartered accountant, and a maternal uncle would beat him when he skipped school to practice.

Thankfully, youthful stubbornness won out, and N’Diaye Rose got a job as a chief drum major in Dakar, before joining the National Ballet of Senegal in 1960 after the country declared independence. He would later form his own ensembles — including the Drummers of West Africa, the all-female Rosettes and the all-children Roseaux — drawing members from his sizable family.

Since the 1980s, he has toured the globe and played with Miles Davis, The Rolling Stones and Peter Gabriel, even cropping up on a recent remix album for industrial-metal act Nine Inch Nails. Japanese taiko drum supremos Kodo are also big fans, and have brought N’Diaye Rose and his ensembles to Japan for their Earth Celebration music festivals on numerous occasions in the past.

The Doudou N’Diaye Rose Percussion Orchestra, performing in Japan this month, is a relatively streamlined 19-member ensemble. The Yokohama dates of its tour are being held in conjunction with the 4th Tokyo International Conference on African Development, and feature support from Shuichi Hidano, the renowned solo taiko performer who is appearing here with his Super Taiko Project group.

Doudou N’Diaye Rose Percussion Orchestra plays May 16 and 17 at Kannai Hall, Yokohama with the Shuichi Hidano Super Taiko Project ([045] 201-9999, ¥3,500); May 20 at Tokyo International Forum ([03] 5720-9999, ¥4,000); May 21 at Nova Hall, Tsukuba ([029] 856-7007, ¥3,000-Y4,000); May 22 at Koidegyo Cultural Hall, Uonuma ([025] 792-8811, ¥5,000); and May 23 at Ezuko Hall, Ogawara ([0224] 52-3004, ¥4,000 advance). Each show starts at 7 p.m. (4 p.m. May 17). See www.conversation.co.jp for more details.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.