KODO

Shows and Attractions, World Music and Jazz

Biography

Exploring the limitless possibilities of the traditional Japanese drum, the taiko, Kodo is forging new directions for a vibrant living art-form. In Japanese the word “Kodo” conveys two meanings: Firstly, “heartbeat,” the primal source of all rhythm. The sound of the great taiko is said to resemble a mother’s heartbeat as felt in the womb, and it is no myth that babies are often lulled asleep by its thunderous vibrations. Secondly, read in a different way, the word can mean “children of the drum,” a reflection of Kodo’s desire to play the drums simply, with the heart of a child. Since the group’s debut at the Berlin Festival in 1981, Kodo has given over 3700 performances on all five continents, spending about a third of the year overseas, a third touring in Japan and a third rehearsing and preparing new material on Sado Island.

Kodo History
1970s
In 1971, a handful of young men and women gathered on Sado Island to establish Sado no Kuni Ondekoza, a group that provided Japanese youth a way to learn traditional Japanese performing arts and craft. In order to support the group financially, the original Ondekoza members began to study and perform taiko, eventually taking the sound of the drum around the globe on world tours. Members lived communally in an abandoned elementary school and spent much of their time practicing the taiko and training to run marathons. After debuting internationally in 1975, Ondekoza emerged as a professional performance group that became highly acclaimed among European and North American audiences.

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Reviews

“Indeed, if there is such a thing as perfection in music, Kodo comes as near to it as any group in the world.”

Boston Globe

More Reviews

“Indeed, if there is such a thing as perfection in music, Kodo comes as near to it as any group in the world.”

Boston Globe

“Throughout, the devil of it is the combination of the discipline of a surgeon’s scalpel with the primitive, muscular endurance of a cavalry charge.The speed and dexterity are as impressive as the physical tenacity is breathtaking.”

Chicago Tribune

“Balancing a deadly aggression with utter tranquility, their sound stretches from the lightest of rainfall to cataclysmic thunderclaps, from pleasant laughter to discordant fear and from silence to – just once here – a wall of sound, as high, frightening and impregnable as a mountain. Musicians, theatre directors and all interested in the sheer power of sound to feed emotions should take note.”

The Guardian (UK)

“Superlatives don’t really exist to convey the primal power and bravura beauty of Kodo.”

The Chicago Tribune

“…this was a typical Kodo evening: a celebration of music, of physicality, of life. But it was delivered with a sort of manic intensity that spoke to the import of the moment more eloquently than any words could have. ”

New York Times 

“Having spent some time with them, jazz drummer and composer Max Roach thinks of the Japanese drummers of Kodo as regular guys. On stage it’s another story – clad in sweatbands and loincloths, they are like percussionist kamikazes. You expect them to drum till they drop. “The technique they use to play percussion instruments is totally different from anything I’ve ever seen” he says… They deal with that ‘visual sound’ more than anyone I’ve ever known.”

The Village Voice

“Traditional rituals recast as theater, and contemporary thoughts about ancient instruments both figure in Kodo’s performance, which includes ancient and modern compositions. Yet with tense, angular postures, with stylized, frozen gestures and, in one playful piece, with animal-like scampering and slithering, Kodo reminds its audience that, above all, its music is a matter of flesh and blood, wood and stretched skin. Kodo can raise the roof, but the group can also show extraordinary finesse.”

The New York Times

“The spectator is crushed by their power and then suddenly, silence. Complete silence as if life had stopped in an instant, no applause, not even a breath. I have never seen a show where the audience was so close to suffocating. Don’t miss this, the sound of their drums will be engraved forever on your memory.”

Le Quotidien (Paris, France)

“Excitingly varied, marvelously theatrical, fascinating from start to finish, with moments of vivid physical excitement, this programme by a small group of dancers and drummers, remaking performance arts into a modern theatrical experience, was a model of what can be done with folk art.”

The Sunday Telegraph (UK)