Doctor Who references aside, on December 2nd, I had the pleasure of going to the Kodo Taiko Performance at Muza Kawasaki Symphony Hall. This was my first time seeing a taiko performance so I didn’t know what to expect.
The TUJ students were seated on the second floor, but the seats were really good, considering we got student discounts. Honestly, I think they were better than those that were on the first floor and close to the stage because there were certain effects that were incorporated into the performance that would not have been as visible to the first floor attendees as they were to us on the second floor.
The first part of the performance left me with tears in my eyes (yes, I was literally crying from how powerful it was). Before the intermission, there was a piece that included one center performer and four surrounding performers. The center performer started with five different taiko drums in front of him but by the end, he was surrounded by a circle of twelve drums. As it progressed, I got more and more emotional but could not quite understand why. The surrounding performers, in addition to playing their own drums, alternated and played alongside the center performer. It looked as if they were each battling the center performer but at the same time playing with him. I saw this as an intricate and powerful dance and my heart raced. The sound that was produced was indescribable. Thanks to the acoustics of the symphony hall, it felt like the rumbling of thunder was coursing through my body, from my ears all the way down to my feet. It resonated and I cried, but I wasn’t the only one. Andrea, the Kitazono Dorm Manager, who had eight years of playing taiko in the US, shared in my emotions and also cried. At the end, we both wondered how they would top themselves in the second part.
Part two of the performance was just as good as part one. They added humor to it, which was unexpected. For one part, there were three performers on stage, two females with small taiko drums and one male with a bigger drum. The two females stepped forward and as one played a fast-paced rhythm, the other mimicked, without hitting her own drum. Realizing she was “caught” she stopped. Then it was the male’s turn. He stepped forward, head raised proudly, and began to play furiously. His hands moved faster and faster and we all applauded. The only problem was that his drum was invisible.
Then they brought out three big taiko drums (and I mean BIG) and I was amazed. Each drum was three times the size of the player’s upper body and the way they played it made it seem like there was an enormous amount of strength needed to play something that size. However, according to Andrea, it doesn’t take that much strength since different parts of the drum produce different sounds and the Kodo Taiko group definitely utilized that knowledge beautifully. Throughout the two hour performance, they used everything to hit the drums, including their own hands and I loved every minute of it.