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Release: Feb. 1, 2001

Kodo makes fourth visit to UI Hancher Auditorium with 21st-century One Earth Tour

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The famed Japanese drumming ensemble Kodo, celebrating the new millennium with a One Earth Tour for world peace, will present two performances in the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium -- at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25.

The performances will mark the fourth Hancher visit for Kodo, whose drummers train to achieve both the sensitivity and precision of virtuoso musicians and the strength and stamina of marathon runners. They are heirs to the ancient tradition of Japanese festival drumming, but they also bring to their concerts a contemporary style of performance that is known for its thundering theatrics and ritualistic intensity.

Kodo has played an important role in the world-wide renaissance of interest in percussion, both through its artistry on the taiko, the traditional Japanese drum, and through collaborations with jazz and popular musicians, symphony orchestras, dance companies and composers.

In addition to hand-made taiko drums of assorted sizes and timbres -- ranging from hand-held drums to the imposing o-daiko, a 900-pound drum carved from a single tree trunk -- the musicians of Kodo use a variety of other instruments, including shamisen, bamboo flutes, bamboo xylophones, gongs, cymbals, bells and wooden clackers.

Kodo means both "heartbeat" and "children of the drum," expressing not only the sound of the mother’s heartbeat as heard and felt within the womb -- the primal source of all rhythm -- but also the desire to play the drums purely, with the heart of a child.

In their quest for musical depth and athletic power, the Kodo drummers live a life of total dedication to their art at Kodo Village, pursuing a communal, almost monastic existence on the remote island of Sado in the Sea of Japan. Each day when the musicians are not on tour is spent in study, practice and exercise to develop the strength, energy and stamina that are demanded in performances that are as much athletic feats as expressions of artistry -- what one critic has called "the elemental encounter of man and drum."

Kodo was founded in 1971, but they performed very rarely during their first decade, focusing almost entirely on training and rehearsal. They ventured forth in 1981 and quickly became an international phenomenon. At the 1981 Berlin Festival, the astounded audience demanded an hour of encores, and Kodo was the first attraction to sell out at the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival in Los Angeles.

In the early years of training and performance, Kodo emphasized the warrior discipline of the Samurai. The life of the musicians -- all male -- was austere and isolated, and their attitude severe. On one occasion the musicians ran a marathon together, and at the end presented a full-scale concert.

But in recent years Kodo Village has become a busy international center for drumming and musical collaborations, and the attitude of the musicians has become one of celebration and connection to the wider world. Kodo now includes both men and women, and married ensemble members have built family homes on the land surrounding the village.

Kodo has now presented more than 2,000 concerts on five continents and has released more than a dozen recordings, so the One Earth Tour that greets the 21st century also celebrates the 30th anniversary of the ensemble’s founding, and the 20th anniversary of the drummers’ international touring career.

A New York Times review commented, "Traditional rituals recast as theater and contemporary thoughts about ancient instruments both figure in Kodo’s performance, which includes ancient and modern compositions. Yet with tense, angular postures, with stylized, frozen gestures and, in one playful piece, with animal-like scampering and slithering, Kodo reminds its audience that, above all, its music is a matter of flesh and blood, wood and stretched skin. Kodo can raise the roof, but the group can also show extraordinary finesse."

A review in the Village Voice observed, "They are like percussionist kamikazes. You expect them to drum till they drop." And the critic of the Boston Globe concluded, "If there is such a thing as perfection in music, Kodo comes as near to it as any group in the world."

Toyota of Iowa City/Toyota Financial Services is the corporate sponsor of the Kodo performances in Hancher, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets for Kodo are $35, $33 and $30. UI students qualify for a 20-percent discount on Zone 1 tickets, and Zone 2 and 3 are available to UI students for $10. Senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount on all tickets, and tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price.

Box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail at <>.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

For UI arts information, visit this new address -- -- on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>. Learn about Kodo at <>.

(BROADCASTERS: Kodo is pronounced "koh-doh." Taiko is pronounced "ty-koh.")