That’s the ticket
Who: Kodo taiko drummers
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts
Tickets: $25-$59 general, $12.50-$29.50 students; www.mondaviarts.org, 530-754-2787
Kodo — the Japanese taiko drumming group that has visited the Mondavi Center several times over the past decade — returns at 8 p.m. Thursday, with something of a new look.
Last April, veteran kabuki artist Tamasaburo Bando, a renowned artist in Japan, joined Kodo as artistic director. He has worked with the drummers on several occasions since 2001. In his new role as artistic director, he organized a program titled “One Earth Tour 2013: Legend,” which begins with a 25-minute piece titled “Kaden,” created for Kodo by Bando.
“In addition to Kodo’s standard hanten (traditional Japanese coat), I have introduced some original costumes with additional fun and flair,” Bando said. “I wanted to create a performance that pays homage to the profound expressions of Kodo to date, (but which also) adds splendor and levity and harmonizes all elements into a single flow that undulates throughout the program.”
Jun Akimoto, who handles international booking and management for Kodo, told The Enterprise in a phone interview that “Tamasaburo’s appointment as artistic director has helped us deepen the musicality of our taiko performances … not only the musicality, but also the theatrical expression and choreography, as well as the staging and the costumes.”
Akimoto said “Kaden” uses “many kinds of drums, and Tamasaburo came up with the idea of using (standard) drumsticks, which are very thin and light, not taiko sticks. It allows the performers to bring out a more sensitive pianissimo sound,” in addition to the thunderous sound that American audiences associate with taiko performances.
“The choreography is also very intricate, and it is very challenging for the performers to memorize the tempo and dynamics and positioning for a 25-minute piece.”
The first half also will feature two other longish compositions by other modern composers from the 1970s and 1990s.
Akimoto added that the three pieces on the first half are performed as a continuous stream, without a break for applause.
“People may see a hidden story, though it is open to how people perceive it,” Akimoto said. “Some parts remind me of the severe and beautiful nature of Sado Island, where we rehearse.”
Sado, located in the chilly Sea of Japan on the north side of the main Japanese island of Honshu, is known for its windswept landscapes and heavy snowfall in winter.
The second half of the program will feature four somewhat shorter pieces — three of which are traditional, one of which was co-written by Bando and Shogo Yoshii.
Bando himself will not be present at the Mondavi Center this week; he will be in Europe, performing at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, fulfilling dates that were booked before he became Kodo’s artistic director last year.
Akimoto added that the members of Kodo are looking forward to the opportunity to perform again in Mondavi’s Jackson Hall.
“We like to perform without amplification,” Akimoto said. “But in some halls with a ‘dead’ acoustic (little or no reverberation), then we have to use amplification, like in a big room at a casino. The Mondavi Center has great acoustics, so we have always enjoyed performing there.”
Tickets are $25-$59 general, $12.50-$29.50 for students, available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.