Kodo returns to Vancouver
It’s said that in ancient Japan, the size of a village was determined by how far away one could hear the village drum. It’s an evocative image that resonates even today, when the very concept of village and community is changing in the face of globalization.
The members of Japanese drum ensemble Kodo carry the ideal of a global village within them as they tour the world on their ongoing One Earth Tour, the thunderous rhythms of the huge drums drawing audiences into their sphere and reminding us that language is not the only way to communicate.
Kodo was formed in 1981 on Sado, an island in the Sea of Japan that was once home to dissidents and political prisoners in exile. Far from the hustle and bustle of urban Japan, it provides an ideal place of refuge for the group, a sanctuary where they can immerse themselves in the traditional arts and train for the rigorous performances that are their hallmark. The group lives communally, taking a holistic view of the world and their place in it.
Staying true to the ethos they developed thirty years ago at their home on Sado, the ensemble eschews show business flash and dazzle in their performances, choosing instead to perform on a bare stage without extraneous ornamentation or artifice. It is an intimate approach that serves to highlight the incredible athleticism of their performances and the rhythmic precision of their drumming. Their performances are cathartic, their stamina legendary—often moving audience members to tears.
On the 2011 version of the One Earth Tour, Kodo is presenting four new pieces including the world premiere of an original piece, Sakaki. Composed by Kodo member Masaru Tsuji, the piece takes its name from a sacred tree used in Shinto purification rituals. The solo male dancer and the rhythms invoke Sado’s oni-daiko (demon drumming) dances, where villagers in fearsome masks are transformed into dancing demons. With crimson jaws and wild flowing hair, dancers force misfortune to turn tail, protecting crops, animals, and families for the year to come.
Every summer Kodo hosts the Earth Celebration on Sado Island, inviting musicians and other performers they have met on their travels to come back to their island home to collaborate with the group and share their cultures and art. Those lucky enough to be able to travel to Sado for the Earth Celebration are treated to three days and nights of transformative music and dance under an open sky.
If travelling to Sado in August is outside either your budget or schedule, head down to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on January 28 for the next best thing: two-plus hours with one of the world’s pre-eminent performing ensembles.
Friday, January 28, 8pm
Queen Elizabeth Theatre
(Hamilton & Georgia Streets)
Tickets $60.50-77.50 at ticketmaster.ca
or call 604.280.3311