My first live KODO concert experience started with a pleasant surprise. By being at the right place at the right time, my son and I got to go backstage at Symphony Hall before the concert and meet some of the KODO people. One performer was practicing shime-daiko with bachi that were tapered almost to a point. He was drumming very quietly, and very rapidly — an extremely difficult combination! — right on the edge of the drum head. Unusual bachi, unusual technique, unusual skill. Yeah, I thought, this is going to be good.
Good is a wholly inadequate word to describe the events of the next couple of hours. Phenomenal, astonishing, spiritual, inspiring, and awe-inspiring — now we’re getting warmer. The precision, the creativity, the energy, the pure joy that the performers displayed was incredible.
We had seats in the balcony that were close enough to spot some of their spike marks on the stage, see every nuance of expression on the performer’s faces (beads of sweat too!), and viscerally feel the drums. I spent much of the concert literally on the edge of my seat, leaning forward, straining to absorb all that I could. I was actually tired at the end of the concert!
I was completely captivated by their first piece, Zoku. My second favorite was their rendition of Miyake. I paid particular attention to the Kiyari singers, as I am a singer-wannabe. I want to learn how to make that guttural, catching sound that gives their voices such a primal quality. And I was completely blown away when the Odaiko soloist, after playing like a madman for ten minutes or so, jumped down and went straight into playing Yatai-Bayashi. I think he played in all of the rest of the songs in the concert, just in case there was any doubt about his superhuman stamina.
Later, ONE hosted a reception at our dojo for KODO. It was a thrill, and an honor, for us to be able to play Mahora for them. It felt good, like we were giving something back.
I am left with a renewed sense of commitment to do everything I can do become a better taiko player. KODO, thank you for the inspiration.