Five things you didn't know about Kodo

Kodo are a group of Japanese drummers that explore the limitless possibilities of the taiko, the traditional Japanese drum.  Seeing them in performance is a breathtaking experience so to prepare you for their new show Evolution, coming to Symphony Hall on 5 February, here are five things you won't already know about the group. 

1) A piece called Ayaori uses a brand new kind of drum

Three drummers perform this piece using katsugi okedo daiko (portable barrel drums). These may look like regular drums, but they are actually the world's first taiko that allow a performer to use a different key on either side of the drum head. Named a Kanade, this drum was the Recipient of the Japan Good Design Award in 2015, allowing the drummers to weave together a multitude of tones and sounds into a complex and hypnotic musical tapestry.  

2) In Ake no Myojo, the performers drum whilst controlling overhead lights at the same time

Ake no Myojo, meaning 'Venus in the morning sky', sees a stage blanketed in darkness slowly come to life with light patterns created by the performers, who use handheld switches. The performers must sing, dance, drum and know complex formations, so controlling these lights adds a whole new level to the challenge.

Kodo Lights

3) Drumsticks are replaced by custom-made bags of bells in Color

In a huge contrast to the dark and mysterious Ake no Myojo, Color provides some comic relief where drums are hit with little bags of bells to create rainbows of sounds. The bags used to be made by the performers, but they broke too easily, so they are now made by professional craftspeople especially for use in the show.  

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4) Monochrome uses purpose-built drumsticks

The Taiko is famous for its loud sound and use in battles. Maki Ishii's Monochrome begins in almost silence, its barley-audible beats making the piece a revolutionary work for Taiko. Drumsticks with finely-tapered tips have to be made specifically for this piece to create such a faint sound. 

5) Soloist Kenta Nakagome uses his own style of music notation for the O-daiko drum

The O-daiko drum is played by power hitter Kenta Nakagome, who has developed his own method of notation to convey the sounds his is aiming for to the other musicians, which combines elements of Western classical and Japanese notation. We think you might need him to decode what it means though! 

Kodo are coming to THSH on 5th February to perform their show Evolution as part of their One Earth Tour 2018, celebrating their 35th anniversary.

Bonus: Martial arts schools use Kodo to help their practice 

FMA Fujian (Chinese) Martial Arts Group incorporate the drumming of Kodo into their training. They came along to Symphony Hall to show us a little bit about how it works...