Founders of the group Neil Mackie and Miyuki Williams lived and trained intensively in Japan for two years with Master Drummer Masaaki Kurumaya Sensei, returning to the UK to form the group in 1994. The group have since returned regularly to their original place of learning both to perform and continue their ongoing training.
Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers present taiko in a modern and theatrical style – with precise choreography, dramatic lighting, and a variety costumes ranging from the post-apocalyptic industrial look to gorgeous earthy silks. The concert itself is extremely musically varied; thundering rhythms on huge Taiko drums interweave with delicate Shinobue bamboo flute and percussion in a visually spellbinding display of grace, choreography and athleticism.
Mugenkyo push the boundaries of Taiko with their various artistic collaborations. In 2004 Mugenkyo presented the show “Rinnetensho” with contemporary dance group “Company East”, on the theme of re-incarnation, a multi-media presentation using taiko, dance, electronic music and projected visuals. In 2005 Mugenkyo collaborated with Scottish Young Musician of the Year, Stuart Cassells on bagpipes for the BBC Proms. Most recently, Mugenkyo have toured the UK with Hanayui - traditional dance and drum group from Sado Island and members of the renowned Kodo Drummers.
A variety of festival highlights over the years have included: Rhythm Sticks Festival at the South Bank in London, Marlborough Jazz Festival, Glastonbury Festival, Henley Classical Festival, Phoenix Rock Festival, the Cork Jazz Festival in Ireland, and the Buitengewoon Sound and Light Festival in the Netherlands, performed with a spectacular firework display timed precisely with the thundering rhythms of the taiko drums. Mugenkyo have also performed at numerous large-scale multimedia events, the 2003 Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium, Paris Disneyland, and the film premiere of “The Last Samurai”. Mugenkyo now perform at festivals under the name “Mugenkyo Festival Drummers”
Mugenkyo have been featured on numerous television and radio programmes worldwide, including the Brit Awards, the Generation Game, and have even appeared in a Bollywood film. Their recordings have also been used in film soundtracks and tv documentaries.
Education has always been an important element of Mugenkyo’s work. In 2002 Mugenkyo established the Mugen Taiko Dojo, the first Centre for Taiko Drumming in the UK. Under the umbrella of the Mugen Taiko Dojo, members of the group tour an award-winning educational concert at schools, undertake educational outreach projects with councils all over the UK, and run in-depth courses for adults and weekend residential workshops at the centre.