Odaiko New England

My Date with Kodo

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve been on a blind date – afterall, what would Mr. Lau say? Yet that’s exactly what meeting Kodo today feels like! Not only do I get to meet members of Kodo, I’ll be driving some of them to our reception after their Boston concert.

Yesterday, I washed the minivan and picked up all the kids’ trash from the back seat. Today I tried on two different outfits before leaving and put on makeup for the first time in months. As I head out the door, I’m quite nervous!

But before I can meet and pick up my dates, I watch them in concert. (So this part is more like a stalking than a date.) I and my Odaiko New England cohorts are gathering for Kodo’s one-night concert at Symphony Hall in Boston. There are 100+ of us here from ONE’s extended family. While waiting for the show to begin, David Wiggins and I have fun spotting our friends here and there among the sold out crowd of 2600. The excitement builds! The lights dim!

Some drummers enter the stage and begin playing. They’re so young! Two more enter and pump their fists at the crowd as they join the others. Well, there goes my impression of Kodo as the somber elder statesmen of taiko! Kodo’s opening piece, Zoku, builds relentlessly. It’s wonderful. Two very big hira-daiko in the back are gracefully attacked with big clubs. I’m pretty far away, yet it makes my hair move. When the rhythms of the big hira coincide with the chus, it’s utterly satisfying!

Kodo plays Monochrome

Kodo plays Monochrome

But my favorite piece of the night (at Symphony Hall, anyway), is Monochrome. I’ve always liked the way a good shime player sounds and feels like an engine driving a song. Now seven shime-daiko are set on stage. But when the drummers begin, I’m not hearing an engine so much as a peaceful, soothing drone. The drummers pass echoes up and down the line. It’s beautiful. Now something’s changed and the peaceful drone has turned surreal. The sound grows. The power and volume increase to a frightening degree. The drummers’ thin, ultra-tapered bachi flash in a blur as they evoke an enormous freight train approaching from a great distance to overtake the stage. The onslaught recedes, giving way to new patterns. They sound intense. Dangerous. I’m hearing the soundtrack of a locust swarming scene in a horror movie.

Note to self: Must start On Ensemble’s 30 Days to Better Shime program.

The concert ends all too soon, but out in the lobby, the excitement doesn’t. ONE members find each other in small groups and share impressions. Some of our group head to the dojo to set up for our reception. I and a few others are sticking around. We’ll be waiting for Kodo to drive them to the reception.

Eventually it’s time to meet my dates at their hotel. Jasmine Hall and I stand around waiting, glancing at other people in the lobby. Is that person from Kodo? How ‘bout the guy in the corner? Eventually Mark H. Rooney arrives to make the introductions. We stand around staring at each other because most of us speak no Japanese and most of them speak no English. This does not bode well for our date.

With Mark’s help, I get four of them to follow me to the minivan. I’d forgotten to take out a car seat, which amused Kodo as they decided who would sit in it. As with any typical blind date, the drive is filled with awkward silence and the occasional attempts to start a conversation. Unsuccessfully as it turns out. The young woman sitting beside me told me of the giant mosquitoes that bite her children on Sado Island. Later, when I ask how old her children are, I learn she has no children. So I’m left to wonder what the giant mosquitoes were biting. And to remind myself to avoid Sado Island.

Despite our language and skill differences, I think we all had a great time at the reception. We played for Kodo, Kodo sang for us, and in between, lots of friendly jamming. I’d ask them out again, but I think they’re back on Sado Island enjoying the mosquitoes.

1 comment to My Date with Kodo

  • kate

    Also, on how many blind dates do you get to drum Miyake in your LBD? [Lurkers, see photo of Sheilarae on her date in the previous post]