Exploring the limitless possibilities of the traditional Japanese drum, the taiko, Kodo is forging new directions for a vibrant living art-form. In early 2018, we return to Europe with our latest production, “Evolution.” Here are some fun facts to read about this new production before you head to the theater.
1. Ayaori is played on newly-designed drums that produce a different key on either side.
Ayaori means “twill weave.” This composition is performed by three drummers playing katsugi okedo daiko (portable barrel drums). At first glance, these three drums look like regular barrel drums, but there’s more to them than meets the eye. This innovative taiko, Kanade, was developed by Kodo performer Masayuki Sakamoto in collaboration with renowned Japanese taiko maker, Asano Taiko. Recipient of the Japan Good Design Award in 2015, it’s the world’s first taiko that lets a performer tune the drumhead on either side to a different key. In Ayaori, the drummers use the two-tones of the drum and a range of different drumsticks to weave a multitude of tones into a musical tapestry.
2. The performers use handheld switches to control their overhead lights in Ake no Myojo.
Set in a realm of darkness, captivating Ake no Myojo is a dynamic yet haunting piece. Its name means “Venus in the morning sky.” Each performer appears wearing a light overhead that they control using a handheld switch to create two light patterns. This complex piece challenges the performers to drum, sing, and dance in rapidly-changing formations, all while carefully controlling their individual overhead light.
3. The climatic finale, Rasen, has a special significance to the production.
“Evolution” showcases Kodo’s classic and latest repertoire and its climax is the finale, Rasen, which means “spiral.” In fact, this production premiered in Japan as “Kodo One Earth Tour: Spiral” to match the Japanese production name, “Rasen.” In the eponymous final number, the performers conjure a spiral as they perform in turn, creating a whirling vortex of energy that envelops the entire audience. Rasen also depicts a helix of sound and spirit that connects Kodo’s history to its present and continually drives the ensemble headstrong into the future. Refrains from long-upheld Kodo signature pieces emerge within the fervent torrent of beats as the next generation pays homage to the past while asserting their own dedication to the evolution of taiko performing arts.