Kodo was probably the first Japanese music I bought and listened to. They are a troupe of Taiko drummers and probably the most famous from Japan. Taiko drums are their main instrument but they also use voice (not words) the Japanese flute (shakuhachi) and some other percussion instruments. I’m not sure if it really works on CD. Pieces like Monochrome which is 14 mins of a quick beat going from just under your hearing threshold to loud, then up and down again is not really something you’d put on for entertainment but would work quite well in performance. Lion with its African style, and Zoku with its guttural voices are probably my favourites from the album Best of Kodo.
Uzume Taiko is Canada’s first professional taiko group. They make more use of the shakuhachi and the pipa (a Chinese lute) as well as saxophone and bass guitar. Their album Chirashi is probably easier to listen to than Kodo and track number 9 even contains the Secret of Life.
To get the best from Taiko you’d need a good bass on your hi-fi and understanding neighbours. Fortunately I could play them full blast in a soundproofed studio.
The first time I heard Taiko live was at the Greenwich festival and you could feel the bass in your chest from about a street away.
The next time I saw Taiko was at the Barbican when I saw Kodo’s European Tour in 2006.
Very exciting stuff and certainly very physically demanding on the performers. I doubt there was a gram of fat on the drummer playing the O-Daiko. This is a 350kg drum 125cm across made from a single tree. The lighting gantries shook and virated with the base frequencies. The sweat poured off the performer who was using drumsticks more like baseball bats. Amazing
Another physical piece is where they drum in a seated position but are in effect holding a sit-up at 45 degrees. I’ve no idea how they can do it. If you ever get a chance I’d recommend you see a Kodo performance.
For more about Taiko