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Pandemonium goes Kodo: World leading Taiko drumming

Two of our drummers had the opportunity to visit the Kodo One Earth: Mystery show at the Barbican on Monday, 15 February 2016.
Kodo is a Japanese taiko performing arts ensemble that performs on a worldwide scale but remain rooted in the local community of Sado Island, Japan.
Here is the response from our drummer Vicki:

Kodo One Earth Tour 2016: Mystery

Rumble, building up, then dying away. People with lights over their heads that they switch on and off. So far, so Pandemonium. But then there are dragons, and a synchronised, polished performance that doesn’t come from sporadic rehearsals at “Fire” and the occasional workshop at Harrow, which is how the Pandemonium Drummers train.

This is KODO – heartbeat, children of the drum, way of the drum, and there is nothing else like it on earth.

Based on the island of Sade, the troupe was founded 35 years ago to continue the study and practice of the O-daiko, Chu-daiko (drums), chappa (hand cymbal) and fue (flute). Preparation was, and continues to be, rigorous with one third of the year devoted to intensive training to develop technique and physical stamina. When I saw them in 1996, I am sure it was an all male ensemble. Now female students are admitted to, and pass, the tough two year apprenticeship. Only the very best are considered for further training.

The inclusion of female performers is due no doubt to their current artistic director Tamasaburo Bando, a noted onnagata (Kabuki actor of female roles). This is 21st Century Kodo, a theatrical show that draws on the rich and varied folk traditions of Japan.

 15 drummers, 36 drums, 4 dragons and 1 lion present a spectacle that is comic and thrilling by turns: three demons annoy some villagers and are subdued by food and copious amounts of sake; four girls conduct a conversation with wooden percussion, gradually changing mood until their squabbling is interrupted by a lion which they chase away with the help of other performers; three drummers with four drums perform an intricate routine, lit in such a way that the shadows they cast bring to mind the Shamanic rituals that are at the heart of the drumming; two drummers perform either side of a single drum, their wide-legged stance serving to enhance their power and attack.

These are performances of technical virtuosity that few can match. The whole performance culminated in a splendid ensemble piece blending skill and humour, with the drummers so obviously enjoying themselves it was infectious.

Personally, I did miss the feeling of ritual that I sensed 20 years ago, and comments I overheard on my way to the station indicated that others were missing the more serious side evident in earlier shows. However, it was an enjoyable spectacle and I hope that Kodo return to London soon.

For more information, visit www.kodo.or.jp
Photo reproduced from the Kodo website

ABOUTPandemonium Drummers

The Pandemonium Drummers were originally put together by London 2012 Ceremonies for the Pandemonium segment of Danny Boyle's spectacular Olympic Opening Ceremony. Following the Ceremony, the volunteer drummers kept on performing at a variety of events.

Based on their extensive training, they performed at other Opening Ceremonies, including the UEFA Champions League Final 2013, the FA Cup Final 2014, and the Heineken Cup Final 2014, and at a variety of large and small festivals as well as sports and community events. The Pandemonium Drummers are a returning act in London's major parades, including the London New Years' Day Parade, St Patrick's Day Parade, and the Lord Mayor's Show, and they coined Cheer Drumming, supporting runners at major sports events across the capital and beyond. The Pandemonium Drummers have supported the Special Olympics, the Teenage Cancer Trust, and a wide range of other charities.

The Pandemonium Drummers are a constituted association with charitable aims, and are working on a non-profit basis as volunteers.

[ More about the Pandemonium Drummers ]

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