Review by Greg Haymes
Clad only in a loincloth and headband, he is poised in front of a gigantic odaiko drum. The drum head is four feet in diameter, and the drum itself weighs more than 800 pounds.
He holds two handcrafted sticks, each four or five times thicker than the average drumstick.
He isn’t merely beating the drum. He is hurling himself forward, pounding the drum with every ounce of strength.
Welcome to the world of Kodo, the world-renowned Japanese taiko drum troupe that made a tour stop at Proctors in Schenectady recently for an evening of pulse-pounding percussion unlike anything you’ve heard before.
In concert, Kodo isn’t an ensemble that you merely listen to or watch. A Kodo concert is something that you feel – literally.
So if you’re one of those concert-goers who usually heads to the lobby for a smoke or a drink during the drum solo – you know who you are – you probably wouldn’t have had a very good time at Kodo’s concert. In fact, you would have missed the whole show. Kodo, the world renowned Japanese drum ensemble, delivered a mind-boggling evening of drums, drums and more drums.
Rhythm is the basis of all life. Without rhythm of the heartbeat, there is no life. And when the rhythm stops, the life is over. And during their performance at Proctors, the 13-member taiko drum troupe Kodo played their drums as though their lives depended on it. Power and grace so rarely reside side by side in a performance of this caliber.
There were big drums – some whose heads were at least four feet in diameter. The most unforgettable moments of the show took place during the thundering big drum solo, “O-Daiko.” Clad only in a loincloth and a headband, the drummer literally threw himself against the drum.
There were small drums, too – plenty of them throughout the course of the two-hour performance.
And believe it or not there was plenty of subtlety as well. Not just power pounding, but also a stunning display of grace, as the troupe entwined synchronisation with syncopation. While the drums were always at the heart of each performance, Kodo also wove together the big beat with bamboo flutes on several selections. There were elements of dance and kabuki theater, as well, but in the end it was all about the drum.
A big bang, indeed.
KODO SET LIST