Drummer boys

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS -

Ja­panese taiko drum­ming is pushed be­yond its tra­di­tional bound­aries by the Kodo Per­form­ing Arts En­sem­ble, a group of young ath­letic per­form­ers who live and train on the Ogi Penin­sula of Sado Is­land. In Dadan 2017, at the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter on Thurs­day, March 23, Kodo ex­plores the tonal and mu­si­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties of taiko as well as per­cus­sive in­stru­ments from other parts of the world in a high-en­ergy per­for­mance that is as vis­ually stun­ning as it is son­i­cally rousing. On the cover is a Kodo per­for­mance photo.

Ja­pan’s Sado Is­land is his­tor­i­cally known as a place of ex­ile for court nobles and in­tel­lec­tu­als on the wrong side of politics. Today’s Sado Is­land is home to a pop­u­la­tion roughly the size of the city of Santa Fe, give or take 10,000 peo­ple when fac­tor­ing in the ebbs and flows of tourism. Though its main in­dus­try is farm­ing, as in Santa Fe, the arts and lo­cal cul­ture of Sado Is­land draw trav­el­ers from around the world as well as young peo­ple in­ter­ested in pur­su­ing cre­ative ca­reers. Sado Is­land is well known for per­for­mances of tra­di­tional folk mu­sic and dance, as well as de­mon drum­ming and pup­pet the­ater, among many other art forms. Kodo Per­form­ing Arts En­sem­ble, with a school that is lo­cated in its own vil­lage on the Ogi Penin­sula of Sado Is­land, is ded­i­cated to the art of Ja­panese taiko drum­ming. Kodo is not a preser­va­tion so­ci­ety for taiko but a highly ath­letic per­for­mance group that pushes it from a tra­di­tional form and into fine art. Mem­bers test the mu­si­cal bound­aries of the in­stru­ment and open their com­po­si­tions up to col­lab­o­ra­tion with other per­form­ers — flutists, West­ern drum­mers, or or­ches­tras, for in­stance, as well as dancers and tum­blers. Kodo presents its new­est work, Dadan 2017 ,at the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter on Thurs­day, March 23. In ad­vance of that en­gage­ment, Pasatiempo spoke to Kodo mem­ber Jun Jidai through an in­ter­preter, Yui Kawamoto, who is also Kodo’s com­pany man­ager. Jidai has been a full-time mem­ber of Kodo since 2014; he first joined the group as an ap­pren­tice in 2011.

“I joined a taiko club in high school, even though I wasn’t re­ally into any mu­si­cal ac­tiv­ity un­til then,” he said. “I was an ath­lete and played a lot of basketball. But there was a meeting of clubs to in­tro­duce them to ev­ery­one, and af­ter I saw the taiko per­for­mance my ath­letic ca­reer changed 180 de­grees. The peo­ple who were play­ing looked re­ally cool.” As a mem­ber of the club, Jidai at­tended many live taiko shows by pro­fes­sional groups. Kodo’s per­for­mances stood out in his mind so much that when he was con­sid­er­ing his op­tions for af­ter high school grad­u­a­tion, he re­al­ized that the one thing he re­ally wanted to do was join them.

Taiko drum­ming is a stun­ning spec­ta­cle. The drums are enor­mous — up to 5 feet across, though some are smaller. Kodo drum­mers, who must be strong, lim­ber, and in top car­dio­vas­cu­lar shape, pound the sur­face with sticks in move­ments that ap­pear to re­quire the ef­fort of the en­tire body. Chore­og­ra­phy might send them run­ning from drum to drum and chang­ing places with other mem­bers, their voices ris­ing as the mo­men­tum builds. The per­form­ers’ en­ergy in­creases into a con­trolled frenzy as the vol­ume reaches a crescendo that Jidai said makes his heart beat very quickly, while he is si­mul­ta­ne­ously fo­cused and calm. “I’m in the zone. I think it is pleas­ant, spir­i­tual, and in­tense.”

In Dadan, the fo­cus of the com­po­si­tions is on per­cus­sion, with no ad­di­tional mu­si­cal ac­com­pa­ni­ment, so the melodic as­pects will be coaxed from

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