I am SO psyched. I found out last night (at the International Taiko Festival) that Kodo is playing in the Bay Area in February. Kodo is the pre-eminent taiko (Japanese drumming) group in the world, they play all over the world to rave reviews and standing ovations. (Their “Best of Kodo” CD was named one of the top 100 classical CDs by Sony.) I think they are one of the best performance troupes I have ever seen. See http://www.kodo.or.jp.
— Chicago Tribune
Taiko drumming is primal, precision, and incredibly athletic–top taiko drummers are as muscular and “cut” as any top athlete, but can play with great delicacy as well. One of Kodo’s signature acts, “Monochrome”, involves nine drummers playing in unison, from barely audible to filling the entire concert hall with sound–and sounding like a single drummer until they choose to explode into complex musical rhythms.
On the other end, they have one of the largest drums in the world, almost 6 feet across–the o-daiko. The o-daiko is so large that it is traditionally played by two people–one beats out a basic rhythm on one side, the other improvises and plays the main tune. Playing the o-daiko is not for the faint of heart–it’s an incredibly athletic performance and a test of physical endurance. They’re literally whacking away on this thing with giant clubs, 3″ in diameter. The deep bass notes of the drum vibrate in your body–it’s felt as much as heard. But again, it’s not uncontrolled passion; they know exactly what they’re doing and how to get precise sounds out of the o-daiko.
(To give you an idea of how athletic they are, one year Kodo ran the Boston Marathon–just for the fun of it–and then gave a concert afterwards. Wowza.)
Taiko drumming is a mix of primal music, martial arts, and (a little bit) dance, as in rhythmic and dramatic movements of the whole body. But you really have to experience it. If Kodo is coming anywhere near your town on their One Earth Tour, buy tickets. You won’t regret it. I have been going to their performances since 1987 and have yet to see them get anything less than a standing ovation (one year they got three!). They are truly legendary.
Anyway, if you have the chance, do go see them–it’s one of the best performing acts I’ve ever seen, and I like exotic theater. (There’s a pretty cool–if small–photo here.)