Arts & Entertainment

Kodo Dadan: Japanese drumming sensation comes to KU

KU Presents! features Taiko ensemble on March 8 in Schaeffer Auditorium

Kodo Dadan

Kodo DADAN –

By Matthew Harron
Assistant Arts and Entertainment Editor

On Thursday, March 8, KU Presents! featured Kodo DADAN, a 15-man Taiko drum ensemble. Taiko drums ranging from small to large surrounded the stage in Schaeffer Auditorium. Each performer in the ensemble contributed to overall sound of the production with their tonal voiced drums. As the Taiko drummers skillfully stroked each note into the head, the audience was mesmerized by their every move.

Kodo DADAN’s performance was unique because Kodo focuses on using only percussion instruments. The climax of their performance features a single solo performer, followed by the smaller supporting drums. Kodo DADAN tests the limits of each player’s psychological, spiritual, physical and technical abilities.

The first movement in Kodo DADAN’s performance displayed the impressive musicianship of each performer. Their range of dynamics continued to contrast throughout each movement; at a moment’s notice the performer could switch from a piano dynamic marking and excel to a fortissimo dynamic marking. While each side of the stage was split with Taiko drums, each side did their best to out-perform the other side, almost like a competition. The ensembles ability to rhythmically shift from simple to polyrhythms built tension among the audience.

Fleetwood resident, Tracy Stafford, was intrigued by their range of sound. “Their performance was exhilarating and I could feel their drums reverberating from my seat.” Stafford thought that the second-to-last movement was most impressive because they were able to incorporate the various drums into the whole percussion ensemble.

Later movements in the production withheld the same intensity from the first movement. Kodo DADAN was able to simultaneously transition off the stage, allowing other percussion instruments to be featured. While they moved larger Tiakos off stage, five performers began playing a smaller marimba instrument, allowing more of an asian sound to be produced. Stemming from the asian sound, each performer’s face reflected stoic traditional Japanese Taiko drumming.

Following another smooth transition, the majority of ensemble switched to their Katsugi Okedo—a different style of Taiko drums that hangs from the body. The ensemble continued to portray their diversity as they began playing the Katsugi Okedo on a vertical incline. Now using a different style of stick, the timbre of the drums switched from hollow and deep sound to a tight, high-pitched tone. With their new drum choice, the ensemble was able to move around the stage with a different style compared to previous movements.

The final movement of the night incorporated every aspect from previous movements. The ensemble arched around the stage and began following a call and response technique. After each solo-performer, the ensemble ended with an intense pose, reinforcing their production. The audience was in for a treat when the ensemble decided to perform an encore. With the audience on their feet and hands clapping, the free-spirited drummers bowed and ended the night with a jam-session.