Ta-ku’s live performance sets the bar for the next generation of electronic music producers…
Built in 1941, the Vogue Theatre is one of Vancouver’s oldest theatres and resides on Vancouver’s main nightlife and entertainment street, Granville. Not only is the Vogue one of Vancouver’s oldest theatres, it’s easily one of Vancouver’s most beautiful. Evident in the interior, the theatre’s architectural style features curving forms, long horizontal lines, and sometimes nautical elements which is very fitting for an ocean-side city.
I’ve arrived early to the show and a line cascades down the street and around the corner. I walk past the crowd inspecting the faces of my future fellow concert attendees. The vast majority have yet to hit their 20s and I’m forced to ask myself, is this because it’s an all ages show on a Monday? Is it because of Ta-ku’s mastery of social media and domination of SoundCloud, where he boasts nearly 400k followers, a platform predominantly used by the younger generation? Or a little of column A and B?
The first act has yet to take the stage, the lights are bright, the theatre’s house playlist is still playing in the background and yet, there is already a barrage of youth sporting Ta-ku shirts pressed against the front railing.
The lights turn off and the theater goes dark. From the abyss, music loops and a spotlight embraces our opening act, HWLS. He is back-dropped by a low blue light that envelops the instruments on stage. Heavily influenced by early hip hop, HWLS set’s the musical tone for the evening. Keeping a low tempo and bringing in samples from the 60s and 70s, he warms the crowd. As he switches tempos and timbres we are foreshadowed with what’s to come–the future. Future beats. Half way through the set, HWLS’ confidence builds and he begins to flex the deck. Not just with simple stutter steps and FXs, but by counting his measures and aligning his fills. The crowd cheers as he leaves the stage.
The next act, Masego, bursts on stage playing the saxophone. The crowd cheers as he’s playing one of their favorites. He stops. “Wait. For all those who don’t know me…let’s start one from scratch”. He freestyles a loop, plays a chord progression, rattles a beat from a synthetic pad and begins to sing, beautifully. His multi-instrumented skills are inspirational. He asks the crowd to help him sing and finish each bar “Hi dee hi de ho, Yed eh Yed eh ah”. His stage presence is captivating.
Performers take the stage, our softly blue-light instruments are finally going to be utilized. Ta-Ku’s deck spinning will be supported by some live musicians: a keyboardist to add synth chords or emotional melodies and a drummer to back-up the beats and add an overall layer. Yet, the microphone remains empty. A blue screen illuminates them from behind. Ta-ku’s concert is going to be visual, which is not at all surprising as he’s an avid photographer, designer and overall art purveyor. Ironically, he is also color blind.
The first song of his set commences; we are strolling through a marble hallway while a minor chord progression plays over static from a record skipping. The music evokes emotion and the visuals heighten them. Ta-Ku masters the aural with the visual; synchronizing the movement and mood of the music with the visual experience.
As the night progresses, Ta-Ku continues performing crowd favorites, all synced to beautiful visuals. “I Miss You” is set to a girl engulfed in geometric patterns, “I Miss You More” is paired with growing and swirling cherry tree branches while pulsating blue light reminiscent of tron is set to “Down For You feat. Alina Baraz)“. However, the biggest highlight of the night was when Ta-Ku replaced JMSN as the vocalist on “Love Again”, especially since vocals aren’t his primary strength. Needless to say, he nailed it.
It’s imperative to state that Ta-Ku’s live performance goes beyond the word “concert” or the traditional “electronic show”–it’s an emotional journey. Ta-Ku combines his already soulful sounds with powerful imagery, skillfully supporting it with live instrumentation and vocals. Not unlike with Daft Punk’s RAM, his live performance is a marriage of organic and inorganic sounds which provide much more depth and emotion to the experience. The future generations of producers who follow in Ta-ku’s footsteps will not just be “beat makers”, but singer-songwriters who compose with the whole live experience in mind.