Utne Blogs > Arts and Culture

Kodo Returns to North America

by Katie Leo 

Tags: Arts, Performance, Japanese taiko drumming, Kodo,

If your knowledge of Japanese taiko drumming is limited to that sexy Mitsubishi commercial or the soundtrack for the 1993 Wesley Snipes film Rising Sun, you now have an opportunity to watch taiko performed by the masters. Kodo, Japan’s premiere taiko ensemble, is in the midst of their 30-plus-city One Earth tour of North America and recently performed at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. 

It’s impossible to convey in words the sheer power of a Kodo concert. Members coax such deep, rich sounds from their drums that they seem to somehow transcend time and space. Something ancient lives in the taiko drum, and Kodo has learned how to wake it. 

Since their inception 30 years ago, they have perfected their style of taiko through a highly disciplined practice that can only be described as a way of life. Group members live in a communal setting on Sado Island, where their training includes not only famously rigorous physical exercise (stories of drummers running up mountains, carrying heavy drums on their backs, are common); but also traditional Japanese culture such as tea ceremony, Noh theater, and rice farming. 

They now have a beautifully produced promotional video on their website, but an abundance of amateur tributes to Kodo also exists on YouTube: