Review: drumming, Kodo, National Concert Hall, Dublin
The extraordinary phenomenon Kodo arrives as part of its One Earth Tour 2014: Legend and casts a mesmeric spell over its audience.
Under artistic director Tamasaburo Bando, the group, comprising 14 artists – a dozen men and two women, who are also singers, flautists and actors, as well as drummers – come from the Sado Island in western Japan.
The stage is initially symmetrically divided into two semi-circular sets of eight drums of various shapes.
A wind machine, along with four voices, creates atmospheric anticipation before six black-vested drummers launch into Bando's choreographed Kaden. One is flabbergasted not only by the vitality of Kodo's hectic alacrity but also by their remarkably disciplined musicianship.
It could well be said that a drum is a drum is a drum, but with Kodo it can become the fluttering wings of a myriad insects, a pony's clip-clopping over cobbled streets, the peal of mighty thunder claps or the shattering cacophony of exploding salvos.
A new arrangement of the late Maki Ishii's Monochrome is another stunningly colourful piece, where ever-changing irregular rhythmic patterns are woven together, without losing the sense of their logical correlation.
Ibuki introduces the haunting quality of bamboo flutes and the quaint ping of small cymbals. The piece is a homage to 'all living things', with six drummers adding their own imaginatively beating strokes.
Kodo's boundless energy continues unabated in the show's mainly traditional second half with, as in Part I, its sections seamlessly segueing into each other.
Costumes are more vivid – some with gleaming pantaloons under glistening skirts; others opting for knavish black and white squared tops over dark trousers. But the 'aural' colours continue to be no less fantastical as they rise from almost imperceptible pianissimi to deafening fortissimi, with every possible variant coming in between.
Although focusing in the main on the miya-daiko drum, Part II's pièce de résistance is undoubtedly O-daiko, with its similarly named outsize drum anchored on its high trestle.
Barefooted, wearing the briefest of briefs and with unwavering balance, four Kodo brethren, in pairs of two, pound like machines on this gigantic instrument. Their every muscle vibrates in unison under the assaults of their staggering, almost orgiastic, drumming.
Does this over-long sequence outstay its welcome? Well, maybe, but the animalistic virtuosity of the artists involved is electrifying.