One of the most memorable drums of many taiko ensembles is the odaiko. For many, the odaiko solo is the embodiment of power due to the size of the drum, the volume, and the endurance it takes to perform. The odaiko is the largest drum of all taiko, if not the entire world. The largest odaiko are too big to move and permanently reside inside a temple or shrine. Odaiko means “big taiko”, but within any group, it describes the largest drum in an ensemble, which could mean 12 inches (300 mm) in diameter or 12 feet (3.7 m) in diameter. Made from a single piece of wood, some odaiko come from trees that are hundreds of years old.
Kodo is a professional taiko drumming troupe. Based on Sado Island, Japan, they have had a role in popularizing taiko drumming, both in Japan and abroad. They regularly tour Japan, Europe, and the United States.
Although the main focus of the performance is taiko drumming, other traditional Japanese musical instruments such as fue and shamisen make an appearance on stage as do traditional dance and vocal performance. Kodo’s performance include pieces based on the traditional rhythms of regional Japan, pieces composed for Kodo by contemporary songwriters, and pieces written by Kodo members themselves. The numbers that Kodo perform can change from concert to concert. Kodo’s performance normally lasts for about one hour and forty minutes.
In Japanese the word “Kodo” conveys two meanings: “heartbeat” the primal source of all rhythm and, read in a different way, the word can mean “children of the drum,” a reflection of Kodo’s desire to play their drums simply, with the heart of a child.
Kodo strives to both preserve and re-interpret traditional Japanese performing arts. From worldwide tours and research trips, Kodo brings back to Sado world music and experiences which now exert a strong influence on the group’s performances and compositions. They also collaborate with other artists and composers. Since their debut at the Berlin Festival in 1981, Kodo have given over 3,100 performances on five continents, spending about a third of the year overseas, a third touring in Japan and a third resting and preparing new material on Sado Island.