On Friday night we saw Kodò in concert in Antwerp.

At first I wasn’t sure if two hours’ worth of drumming would hold my attention, and yet I found that whenever they broke up their set with something different like a dragon dance, or a geisha song accompanied by a shakuhachi, I found myself thinking “Well that’s all very nice, but can we have the drums back, please?”

This clip should give you some idea of what we saw and heard, but it doesn’t really get across the gut-trembling thrill of seeing a small, muscular, almost naked Japanese man, drenched in sweat, beating the shit out of the largest, loudest drum you’ve ever heard. The liner notes on the cd we bought gently suggest that, in order to best replicate the effect at home, you should turn up the volume as loud as you dare, neighbours be damned, until the noise loosens your bowels.

And yet for me the most impressive moment came early in the first half when seven men sat in a row at the front of the stage, tapping rapidly yet delicately on small drums placed on stands on front of them. Perfectly synchronised, the subtle variations of speed and volume created a galaxy of sounds which called to mind everything from crickets chirping in a field to the approach of a thunderstorm.