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Kodo Drummers

Updated on October 5, 2011

Kodo Taiko Drummers

Kodo, often referred to as "samurai percussionists" is a unique world renowned taiko drumming ensemble from Japan. The traditional taiko Japanese drum is at the heart of this world renowned troupe, which strives to preserve Japanese traditional drumming as well as reinterpret it and present it in new and seemingly limitless ways.

The New York Times wrote, "Kodo reminds its audience that, above all, its music is a matter of flesh and blood, wood and stretched skin." The Chicago Tribune stated, "Superlatives don't really exist to convey the primal power and bravura beauty of Kodo." And the U.K.'s Independent says, "It's a balletic ritual, with the men stripped to the waist and poised to strike, then assaulting the big drums with battle cries as their sticks make circles over their heads. But in sonic terms it's astonishingly austere: pure texture - from the infectious excitement of the shimedaiko to the o-daiko's heaven-shaking sound - and also an exploration of multiple pulses. "

My Experience: Kodo's One World Tour 2009

Last Night's Northern California Performance: February 2009

I heard the Kodo troupe last night, which inspired me to create this lens. The power of their performance is like no other.

Kodo is a tremendous visual and auditory experience that's energizing, uplifting, and truly moving. It's as if their sound rearranges the molecules, bringing unity through rhythm to everyone in the room. You don't just listen to the sounds of Kodo. You feel the rhythms moving through you. Traditional and ever new at the same time, Kodo pushes the limits of art and of music.

Takao Aoki, the Managing Director of Kodo, describes the power of the taiko drums played by Kodo in the following way: "The taiko houses a mysterious power. Something special happens when a human being steps up to a hollow tree covered with animal hide. An organic trinity of flora, fauna and humankind merge to unleash a hidden force that reverberates from the taiko's empty cavity. It's almost as if the space between man and drum disappears and a fusion of the two entities opens up another realm. There is nothing tangible created, but there is a palpable life force, and everyone who shares that space is somehow transformed." *

*The Mysterious Power of the Taiko

Kodo Taiko Drummer

Photograph taken by Alain Bachellier

Photograph by Alain Bachellier on October 17, 2007.

Creative Commons License: Some rights reserved.

Taiko Drum Used by Kodo

Photograph taken by Brian Adler

This is a photograph of a Japanese Taiko Drum used by the Kodo Drummers. The PD photograph was taken by Brian Adler after a performance in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan in 2007.

Kodo Taiko Drummers: The Rhythm of Life

More About Kodo & Taiko Drumming

The Japanese name Kodo has a double meaning, according to the group's website. The first meaning is "heartbeat;" the primal source of rhythm, in which the sound of taiko drum is said to resemble the heartbeat of the mother. As stated on their website, "It is no myth that babies are often lulled asleep by its thunderous vibrations." The second meaning of Kodo is "children of the drum," which reflects the desire of Kodo to play music in its purest form, with the heart of child.

The main focus of the Kodo performance group is taiko drumming, which includes all shapes and sizes of taiko drums. Other traditional Japanese instruments are also used, including the "fue," which is a high pitched Japanese bamboo flute, cymbals, and a small Japanese violin called a kokyu. Vocals, dance and movement combine with the instruments to create an unforgettable experience.

Taiko drums come in many shapes and sizes. Many of them are enormous. The largest, referred to as an O-daiko, is about four feet across, weighs over 800 pounds, and is carved from a single tree. This great drum is played by two men and produces extremely deep sounds.

As I listened to the intense reverberations of this giant taiko drum last night, I couldn't help comparing it to the deep sound of chanting Aum (Om). The sounds of the giant O-daiko were focused and intense. And, when the final humming vibrations began to fade, a deep tranquility was felt.

Photograph by Richard Epworth.

Creative Commons License: Some rights reserved.

Photograph by Richard Epworth.

Creative Commons License: Some rights reserved.

Taiko Drumming at It's Best

Playing the Great O'daiko Drum

Photograph by Richard Epworth.

Creative Commons License: Some rights reserved.

Photograph by Richard Epworth.

Creative Commons License: Some rights reserved.

Kodo at Birmingham, UK

Three Members of Kodo on Taiko Drums

Kodo at Birmingham, UK February 2006 Photograph © http://www.disturbing.org.uk

KODO - HEARTBEAT DRUMMERS OF JAPAN Trailer

 

Kodo: At Home on Sado Island in Japan

There are 24 performing members of Kodo (17 men, 8 women) and 24 staff members. The group lives in an art community completely designed and constructed by the members.

Kodo's first performance was at the Berlin Festival in 1981. Since then, it has given 3100 performances in more than 45 countries.

Kodo spends about a third of the year performing in countries around the world, a third of the year performing throughout Japan, and a third resting and preparing new material at their home on Japan's Sado Island.

In addition to their extensive touring schedule, Kodo hosts a 3-day festival on Sado Island called "Earth Celebration" every August. Musicians from all over the world come and perform. In the past, the guest musicians included Africa's Drummers of Burundi, Mickey Hart of The Grateful Dead, Indian master percussionist Zakir Hussain, and jazz legend, Max Roach.

Becoming a Member of Kodo is Extremely Difficult

Many Begin. Some Complete their Apprenticeship. Very Few Are Chosen.

Being a member of Kodo can take several years. One begins as an apprentice. After passing a series of interviews and exams, each apprentice must complete a rigorous two year training program within the Kodo Apprentice Center on Sado Island. There, trainees learn to master demanding physical drumming techniques, along with a variety of skills that include rice farming and tea ceremonies. Modern comforts such as television and radio do not exist for these trainees.

Once the apprentice program is over, generally 1-3 people are chosen and given probationary status before becoming full members of the group. The number of probationers are usually under 12.

Kodo at Birmingham, UK February 2006 Photograph © http://www.disturbing.org.uk

Members of Kodo Performing

Kodo at Birmingham, UK February 2006 Photograph © http://www.disturbing.org.uk

Kodo Drummers

Photograph taken by Wesley Oostvogels

Photograph by Wesley Oostvogels from Kodo 2008 One Earth Tour.

Creative Commons License: Some rights reserved.

Kodo Video

 

Great Kodo stuff from Amazon

KODO Akatsuki - Tracks from Latest Album Akatsuki Arranged Especially for the Stage

"Our new album Akatsuki is an ambitious work in which young Kodo performers play a central role as they strive to make a Kodo standard for the next generation. The 11 tracks include Stride (composed by Mitsuru Ishizuka), which debuted on tours throughout Japan and Europe last year, and Sora (composed by Shogo Yoshii), which thoroughly enlivened last year's Earth Celebration and December Concert audiences. It also includes Ogi Oiwake, a folk song from Kodo's home, Sado Island, and selected Kodo stage compositions captured in true performance style. Akatsuki is now available at the Kodo Online Store and at Kodo performance venues." KODO

Quick, what do you think of Kodo?

See results

Kodo Taiko Drummers Performing

Photograph by Richard Epworth.

Creative Commons License: Some rights reserved.

What It Takes To Become a Kodo Member

Apprentices Must Endure the Torments of Hell

You've got to see it to believe it!

This is an amazing video of what it takes to become a member of Kodo. Apprenticeship is true hell to these students. If you have an interest in Kodo, in drumming, or even in teaching for that matter, this is worth watching all the way through.

So sorry. The producer disabled showing the video on sites other than YouTube but you can watch it there. Simply click on the underlined link below to go there. Then use your "back" arrow to return to this site.

Demon Drummers - Japan

Share your stories, sightings, thoughts, rants, raves...

Shout Out For Kodo!

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    • profile image

      hexadtraining 5 years ago

      I'm a Taiko drummer in Miami,Fl. I played with the group Fushu Daiko and can't wait to start again. Great Lens!!!

    • julescorriere profile image

      Jules Corriere 5 years ago from Jonesborough TN

      I'd never heard of Kodo before. I really enjoyed learning about it, as well as all of the photographs you included. Thanks so much for this lovely lens.

    • Yourpersonalcon profile image

      Yourpersonalcon 6 years ago

      This is music and performance art. Quite amazing.

    • profile image

      jeff57 6 years ago

      This is the first year I've missed them in the past 7 years. They're awesome!

    • sockii profile image

      Nicole Pellegrini 6 years ago from New Jersey

      Cool stuff. Always interested in learning about different kinds of drumming and drummers.

    • shandigp profile image

      shandigp 6 years ago

      Enjoyed the lens! My husband is a member of St. Louis Osuwa Taiko and I love learning more about Kodo, Taiko Project, Osuwa Taiko, and other groups. Lensrolled and linked to from my lens St. Louis Osuwa Taiko!

    • Vikk Simmons profile image

      'Vikk Simmons 6 years ago from Houston

      What a terrific site about Kodo. I love drumming and really appreciate Kodo. I knew it was difficult but not to the extent that you discussed. Terrific photographs. "Children of the drums," how cool. The babies and the heartbeat rhythm of the durmming was interesting, too.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 7 years ago

      I listened Kodo Drummers performance in NJ Performing Art Center a couple of years back, and they are just out of this world. So much energy, and musicality, and synchronization, I was impressed.

      Thanks for this lens

    • profile image

      FreddyBenstein 7 years ago

      Nice lens on Kodo. My wife and I have a taiko group in Michigan. We've been to Sado Island twice to take part in Kodo's Earth Celebration and have had several workshops from Fujimoto-san. Taiko drumming is really incredible. You should give it a try if you have the opportunity.

    • profile image

      dannystaple 7 years ago

      I always love live and interesting music - which I get a good share of here in London. There was a taiko drumming event at one of the Science Museum Lates here for free - although there were queues for it. A great lens!

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 7 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      I've only seen Kodo Drummers on TV but I'd love to see them live. Fabulous lens - blessed by an Angel.

    • Aquavel profile image
      Author

      Aquavel 7 years ago

      Thanks everyone for your comments and also thanks to those of you who have shared your KODO experience! I have tickets to see them again in a couple of months and am looking forward to it!

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      I was lucky enough to see/hear a performance of the Kodo drummers ten years ago, and I never will forget it! It's an extraordinary experience and not to be missed if you get the chance. Thanks so much for this terrific lens, and for introducing more people to Kodo's music!

    • missbat profile image

      missbat 7 years ago

      Sounds like quite an experience! Thanks for sharing about these fascinating drummers!

    • Jamie-Isherwood profile image

      Jamie-Isherwood 7 years ago

      kodo drummers are absolutely amazing....I have never seen anything like very cool lense.

      Thanks for sharing....I made a lense about learning to play the drums

      https://hubpages.com/entertainment/learn-how-to-pl

    • khael profile image

      khael 7 years ago

      Nice Videos. Kodo has such amazing energy.

    • Lemming13 profile image

      Lemming13 7 years ago

      Delighted to find this lens about the magnificent Kodo phenomenon. Thanks.

    • profile image

      PowersPercussion 7 years ago

      Kodo is definitely one of the most amazing ensembles I've ever seen live . . . thanks for this great page!

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

      JoyfulPamela2 8 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      This is great and so much fun to listen to! I'm adding this to a percussion lens I'm making. Thank you!

      Pamela :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I came across what appeared to be (but probably wasn't) an impromptu Kodo performance some years ago in Hyogo, on the Emperor's Birthday. Blocks away from it, my friend and I followed the sound until we were perhaps 20 feet away from the drummers. I will never forget the all-encompassing feelings ~ emotional, spiritual, physical ~ of the performance. Great memories! Great lens!

    • profile image

      Merre 8 years ago

      Awesome! Saw them three years ago and was blown away! I bought two albums but there is nothing like seeing them in person. I reitterate: There is truly NOTHING like it!!!!!

    • profile image

      tennisbum 8 years ago

      I saw Kodo 3 years ago! They were unforgettable. I'm surprised not more people know about them.

    • Snozzle profile image

      Snozzle 8 years ago

      I didn't know much about Kodo before arriving at your lens. 'The heartbeat of the mother' - fascinating. 5* lens.

      Mike.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I love Kodo Drums. - I have one CD and it is scratched, so I really want to get a new one, or just more...