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The beat starts here

Fri., Jan. 21, 2011

Kodo kicks off its One Earth Tour at the Fox

Kodo will open its One Earth Tour at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox and close it two months later at a prestigious address: Avery Fisher Hall in New York’s Lincoln Center.

In between, this Japanese taiko drum ensemble will play L.A.’s Walt Disney Concert Hall and Boston’s Symphony Hall, to name just two.

In other words, one of Japan’s top cultural institutions will spend two months filling America’s top cultural institutions.

And Spokane gets to see the show first – meaning local audiences will get to see the debut of Kenta Nakagome, 25, on the nearly 900 pound o-daiko drum, the group’s biggest drum.

They’ll also be the first to hear four new compositions, including the show’s opening number, “Sakaki,” which evokes Japan’s Sado Island, where this communal organization is based.

“Sakaki” consists of more than drums. It will showcase a dancer performing a wild “demon dance,” in a fearsome, masked costume, which is part of the Sado Island tradition.

That will show off one of the strengths that has made Kodo one of Japan’s top cultural exports since it was formed in 1981. It has always had Japanese folklore and tradition at its core.

Yet a different side of Kodo has helped it remain vital. That side will be demonstrated with two other new pieces, “Sora” and “Stride.” They draw on traditions from other cultures, specifically Irish-Celtic music and Brazilian samba.

In fact, one way to describe Kodo would be: Imagine a Japanese “Riverdance.”

That’s too facile, of course, but it does convey the idea that a Kodo show features astonishing traditional dance, elaborate costumes, state-of-the art production values and, of course, a haunting and infectious beat.

It all contributes to Kodo’s stated purpose, which is to gather audiences into a kind of global community.

Taiko drums were originally used to call a village together. Kodo says its goal is to gather audiences into one big global village.


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