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Kodo Drummers to go to the true source of rhythm

Known for the thunderous vibrations and meticulous rhythms of their music and the athletic power of their playing, the Kodo Drummers will penetrate the air with the taiko, the Japanese drum, at Zoellner at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 15. Clad in loincloths and colorful costumes, the Japanese group blends rhythm, movement, spirit and sound.

The word “kodo” is a play on the characters for “drum” and “child” and is a homonym for the word “heartbeat,” man’s fundamental source of rhythm. The Chicago Tribune hails the musicality of the group: “Indeed, if there is such a thing as perfection in music, Kodo comes as near to it as any group in the world. Superlatives don’t really exist to convey the primal power and bravura beauty of Kodo.”

In conjunction with the 8 p.m. performance, Zoellner will present a free 7 p.m. pre-show talk by Larry Stockton, professor of music and chairman of the music department at Lafayette and an expert on Japanese drumming traditions. He studied in Tokyo with Tanaka Denji and Semba Kokun.

Kodo members live and train rigorously in their village compound on the stormy Sado Island in the Sea of Japan, where they initially undergo a two-year apprenticeship open to those aged 25 or under. They run 20 kilometers a day, eat and practice together, learn how to make their own drumsticks, how to lift the 800-pound drum high and slowly to set it up, and how to tighten the strings on the smaller drums.

A centuries-old tradition, taiko drums of various sizes and timbres were part of the daily lives of rural Japan. Taiko drumming was originally featured at village festivals held to celebrate good harvests, fish, the arrival of summer or winter, or to pray for rain. The taiko tradition also contains religious elements. Originally carved from Japanese cypress trees to make a “family of drums,” they are now carved from a single African burumbi tree, since remaining cypress trees are of insufficient size.

Generally, eight members of the troupe are necessary to position the big drum at head height. It is mounted high because it must be played hard with upraised arms, to wring out its deep vibrations.

Since Kodo’s debut at the Berlin Philharmony Hall in 1981, they have spent one third of the year touring Japan, a third on Sado Island, and the rest of the year touring overseas. The group has given over 2200 performances in 38 countries from Croatia to Carnegie Hall.

Since 1988, Kodo has joined with the local villages on Sado Island to hold an international music festival called Earth Celebration, described by The New York Times as “Japan’s leading world music event.”

Tickets for the March 15 performance are $36 (orchestra/front grand tier), $34 (back grand tier) and $29 (balcony). For tickets, call 610-758-2787 (7LU-ARTS), visit Zoellner Ticket Services, Monday through Friday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 1l a.m.-2 p.m., and two hours before curtain, or order online. Group, student and LVAIC discounts are available.

Posted on Thursday, February 24, 2005

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