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.

13 thoughts on “Kodò

  1. rasman1978 February 25, 2008 / 11:48 am

    Very cool. I’ve seen both Blue Man Group and Stomp perform live, so I understand that two hours of drumming can be immensely entertaining. I’m fascinated by things, like drumming and rhythm, that exist in every human culture around the world, and yet do not in other primates. That famous scene in 2001: Space Odyssey where, loosely interpreted, apes become humans precisely when they start banging stuff together kinda makes sense.

    By the way, your “This clip…” paragraph rocks.


  2. Bri February 25, 2008 / 12:08 pm

    I love shows like this. There’s just something about rhythm, especially when loud, that just reaches right down and grabs you.


  3. Di February 25, 2008 / 4:24 pm

    Sounds fantastic. Clearly I need to broaden my concert experience, this one reads superb.


  4. jagosaurus February 25, 2008 / 5:44 pm

    I love the entire second paragraph of this post.


  5. simonlitton February 25, 2008 / 5:50 pm

    Note to self – include more references to sweaty naked men and loosened bowels in future posts.


  6. jagosaurus February 26, 2008 / 12:13 am

    Note to Simon: It won’t work unless you also include “beating the shit out of” somewhere in there.


  7. simonlitton February 26, 2008 / 10:00 am

    Jag – what is it with you and physical violence these days? I’m starting to get worried…


  8. V-Grrrl February 26, 2008 / 11:17 am

    Very intriguing. You turn up in the most interesting places.


  9. simonlitton February 26, 2008 / 3:59 pm

    Coincidentally, today in “Hokkaido Highway Blues” I read the following:
    “Joining the Kodo drummers is like joining the marines. It’s a tough regime: up before dawn and a ten-kilometer run, near-naked even in the howling depths of winter. (Long-distance running teaches you the rhythm of the human body. It also builds stamina).”


  10. jeques February 28, 2008 / 1:29 pm


    Wow, this seem interesting! I’m an asian but I haven’t been in this kind of show. But close to this, in my recent home-coming to the Philippines I happen to drop by and witness one of Philippines’ most popular festivals, the Ati-atihan. There are street dancing and all, and the tribes use drums to create a really festive beats. Tourists are free to join any tribe in street dances, and its fun! Please click link below to view my post about the “Ati-atihan” festival.

    I wish you well.

    ~ Jeques


  11. Karen MEG (Pomtini) February 29, 2008 / 4:08 pm

    I’ve been wanting to see this show for ages, and now I really have to! It sounds like such a unique experiende!


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