Event Preview: KODO ONE EARTH TOUR: MYSTERY (North American Tour)

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by Tony Frankel on January 10, 2015

in Theater-Los Angeles,Tours

A POUND OF CURE

Ever since man could bang a stick on a rock, percussion has been a way for humans to express themselves. From your teenager’s bedroom to the battlefield to the theater, percussion has evolved from communicative and ritualistic purposes into an art form. We take for granted the use of percussion as an art form, but it’s a fairly new phenomenon.

KODO - One Earth Tour-Mystery - photo by Takashi Okamoto.

In the early 20th-century, it seemed that there were few innovations left to squeeze out of harmony and melody, and that only rhythm could express the energy of the machine age—primitive, industrial, deafening, and exciting. Thus, from George Gershwin to Tan Dun, percussion has become a mainstay in modern compositions, opening the way for percussion shows such as Stomp to take the world by storm.

Hekireki, KODO - photo by Takashi Okamoto.

Even taiko, once known as a broad range of Japanese percussion instruments which had existed for centuries, began to move from its roots in traditional settings in festivals and shrines to ensemble playing in the mid-20th century. One form is the kumi-daiko style, which features ensembles made up solely of drums. Literally meaning “drum,” taiko is not just known as instruments; it refers to the thrilling, heart-pounding, mind-blowing, and joyous performances of thunderous sound and stunning, stylized choreography.

Jamai, KODO - photo by Takashi Okamoto.

Since 1981, Kodo, Japan’s taiko performing arts ensemble, has brought this gloriously life-affirming art form to 46 countries around the globe. Under the banner of One Earth Tour, Kodo exemplifies why percussion is the primal source of all movement and rhythm. The newest production, Mystery, is touring North America and will be pounding in the acoustically perfect setting of Walt Disney Concert Hall on Tuesday, February 3.

The ambitious production is conceived by Artistic Director Tamasaburo Bando, who also happens to be a brilliant Kabuki actor. His journey is an arrangement of traditional performing arts from around Japan, centering on mood and mystery common to sacred places everywhere. Expect athletic and electrifying drumming, exquisite musicianship, stunning visuals, and pure theatre.

Hekireki, KODO. Photo by Takashi Okamoto.

“Everyone is drawn to mystery in their own way,” said Bando. Even darkness is both beautiful and scary, depending on how you look at it. “You look at the road by the light of moon or the gleam of the stars. You look at blades of grass glistening in the night. The horizon of the sea glows dimly.” Close up, even lanterns look ordinary, “but when you see tens or hundreds of them lined up in the distance, you feel the mystery that’s in humanity itself.” The segments in this production—“Great Serpent,” “Namahage Demons,” “Lion Dance,” and so forth—are “just a means of leading our thoughts to mystery.”

KODO - photo by Takashi Okamoto

Mystery—with its darkness and light, exotic creatures, mysterious reverberations, and legendary wall of sound—is ultimately about diverse cultures learning to understand and accept each other so that all may share our increasingly shrinking planet in harmony. But truly, it is Kodo’s percussionist kamikazes—known for power, precision, discipline, and endurance—that will leave you energized and inspired.

Ajara, KODO - photo by Takashi Okamoto.

KODO's Masayuki Sakamoto - photo by Takashi Okamoto.photos by Takashi Okamoto

Kodo One Earth Tour 2015: Mystery
Walt Disney Concert Hall
111 S. Grand Ave. in Los Angeles
Tuesday, February 3, 2015 at 8:00
for tickets, call call 323.850.2000
or visit www.LAPhil.com

North American tour
plays through March 29, 2015
for dates, cities and more, visit Kodo

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