I went to watch Kodo play live at the Barbican Centre in London back in mid-February. I have been following Kodo for nearly three years. For years I have been amazed by Japanese taiko music, but never found the chance to get into this area of Japanese culture. I've not listen to much else since. Kodo tour every year and they send a part of their group to tour different parts of the world, before coming back to Japan to tour Japan. Europe seems to be visited once every two years. I last saw them perform in Brighton 2014. Listening to a recording is definitely not the same as experiencing them perform live. Whilst you can say that about any act, Kodo is best experienced live. You experience the energy and the music is like nothing you could experience before. Kodo play with such artistic flair and power. The beats are precise and the sound has to be heard as words simply cannot describe.
Watching videos on YouTube and DVD or past performances. It is clear that Kodo was just about drumming with Japanese folk music, song and dance. It has generally been quite conservative. The current artistic director Tamasaburo Bando changed that. The last 3-4 years have been a time of change. Younger members get a say and female performers now play a more prominent part. Taiko drumming remains to be their soul, but there have been more emphasis on stage performances, with more singing and dancing. I had my doubts about the Mystery tour concept, but I ended up loving every moment. The Mystery tour really introduces Japanese musical culture as never before. It was intelligent, witty, charming and inspirational. It was very Japanese in how they repackage and reinvent, so bring new dimension to a much loved Japanese tradition.
There are many professional taiko groups in Japan and thousands of amateur groups. Some are better than others. But you got to love their spirit and enthusiasm. Taiko drumming is enjoyed by people found and old. Kids come back from school and play taiko drums. Taiko drumming has followers all over the world. This is an art form that will live on for a long time.