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Rhythmic Roots: Kodo Bang a Drum

The majority of music at FujiRock may be derived from outside sources, but the guys who run the fest were proud to put on a little Japanese roots music to open the Green Stage Sunday morning. As one of Japan’s premier Taiko (Japanese Drum) collectives, Kodo are as well-oiled a machine as they come, able to organize eight pairs of hands into an almost eerie precision.

As the fantastic Earth Celebration Festival proves, the group is growing steadily closer to mastering the staging element of performance as well. No content is simply to blow our minds with polyrhythmic bombast, Kodo has added elements of theater, including audience interaction and elaborate costume changes. Today while performing a Shishi Odori (Lion Dance) from Iwate prefecture, their clothes resembled the referee in Sumo, but much more elaborate and with two long planks jutting off their back, shooting straight up nearly 5 or 6 meters. Made of paper and bamboo, these planks would have been hitting lights if they were at any other stage than where the headliners play.

As one troupe formulated a beat, the dancers lunged forward in something like a sped-up bow, slamming the planks on the stage floor. The sound was like a whip crack, each slap kicking up larger clouds of dust. The Green Stage’s Sunday opener is a special spot for a band to play. It’s frequently the first band people will see, since you have to pass Green to get to the other stages, so the organizers couldn’t have chosen better. It gives them a chance to show off some of the best local talent and display a little national pride at the same time. So by the time soloist Tsubasa Hori approached the drums for the final number, the area was almost entirely filled.

[UPDATE] I bumped into Kodo's manager at Orange Court. More later…..


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