Taiko drummers entertained the crowd before the dedication this morning of the H.U. Lee International Gate and Garden on the east plaza of the Statehouse Convention Center. Dozens of South Korean dignitaries, wearing black suits under a sizzlingly hot sun, attended the ceremony, wrapped up by a longish speech by Mayor Stodola.
Taiko drumming is a muscular performance art in which the drummers coordinate beats, clicks of their sticks and movements while shouting something that sounded like "so-ray," which translates as happiness, according to one of the drummers. They were led by the Reverend Shuichi Thomas Kurai of Los Angeles, whose drumming can be heard in the movies "The Last Samurai" and "Memoirs of a Geisha." The names on the back of their Taekwondo uniforms -- O'Connor, Gonzales and Kim, for example -- reveal the international character of the event here.
H.U. Lee founded the American Taekwondo Association, which meets annually in Little Rock, and the Lee family and ATA members donated the $1.4 million gate to the city, handcrafted and painted by Korean artisans. As we write, people are still streaming in to see the fountain and sculpture within the garden.
To see a video of the drumming and Gov. Mike Beebe's speech, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GS2jWV8jB80 or just search for Arkansas Times on the youtube website.