Monday, September 26, 2005


I promised I would tell about the Kodo concert.

It was, of course, wonderful. But it was also a disappointment. I first saw Kodo more than 15 years ago, when I first came to Japan. A friend had been told about them, and we bought tickets for an outrageous price and went to the concert, not really knowing what to expect but having been told it was worth every yen of the hugely expensive tickets.

At that concert, I remember the drummers coming on stage. Then I was shaken to my bones, and ten minutes later the concert ended. I looked at my watch, thinking it was intermission, and discovered that two hours had passed.

This time, technically they were very good. The audience was on their side, and loved them before they started.

About halfway through the third piece, I found myself being disturbed by the snoring of one of the secretaries, who was seated right behind me. I wanted to turn around and slap her face, but then thought, no, wait a minute, maybe she has a point. Last time I saw Kodo I didn't even notice the rest of the audience was there. A bomb could have gone off under my seat and I wouldn't have noticed.

So what happened to them?

One thing I think happened is that this was a pared-down Kodo. It was not the full group. It was a free concert, and it's not even listed on their web page. I don't know the details. I don't know why it was free, or how the university Coop managed to organize this. Maybe someone owed somebody something.

They are still wonderful, though. I would still recommend that you see them if you get the chance, even if the tickets are expensive. Maybe it was just this one time they were a bit off, and maybe my expectations were too high. And anyway, towards the end it did all start to come together.

It just didn't happen soon enough.

I started thinking of other Japanese music concerts I have been to. There are not many. There's a free festival thing they have around at City Hall every year, in which various groups perform, usually fairly amateur but occasionally surprisingly good. I have been to a few Okinawan music concerts, and they are always good. The most memorable have been those of Kina Shokichi. He is completely nuts, a crazy person, and his concerts are unforgettable. He makes you dance, whether you want to or not. His music gets INTO YOUR BONES AND YOU HAVE TO DANCE, EVEN IF YOU CAN'T DANCE, OR IF YOU ARE DYING, CRIPPLED, OR VERY OLD. That man could make DEAD people get up and dance. He is the human equivalent of the red shoes in the fairy tale. His concerts always end in chaos, with half the audience up on stage with the musicians and his face occasionally appearing amongst the rabble, playing like a maniac, bouncing around like a rabbit on speed.

The best Kina Shokichi concert I went to was one he gave for the benefit of handicapped people, after the earthquake. These people had a very hard time - deaf people were not found, because they couldn't hear rescuers and the Japanese government was stupidly quarantining sniffer dogs when they were offered by other countries. Mentally handicapped people were bewildered and lost. People in wheelchairs were helpless. At this concert there were all kinds of handicapped people, and there was a lot of impassioned ranting, and interpreters for the deaf had their fingers given a real workout as Kina babbled on at high speed, unable to slow down, apologizing, laughing, twitching, bouncing around with the force of his passion.

Then the concert started. It wasn't long before the mentally handicapped were on their feet. They did not have the ability to control themselves. One young man was totally overwhelmed by the music. He was so happy he could not stand it, and ran up to the stage, shouting incoherently. Kina grinned at him. He went up and danced, shouted in Kina's face, Kina shouted back, and the young man ran down again, happy, still dancing. He went back to his seat, but was soon back as the music sped up again and the drumming got wild. Others followed. The music got faster and faster, and soon nobody could stay seated. It was all wild, wonderful, and mad. I was happy for days afterwards.

I asked The Man what happened to Kina Shokichi. I haven't heard any news about him for a long time, or of any concerts.

"He became a politician," said The Man. "Forget about him."

A politician? A POLITICIAN?



kenju said...

Could this type of concert be like some we have touring in the US and on Broadway, called "Stomp"? They use drums and all manner of everyday items such as brooms, garbage can lids, wooden spoons and human bodies to make music and rhythms that are out of this world.

Kay said...

Hi from Kay who still reads you constantly......dodging hail this afternoon here.....

Lisa said...

I have only seen one Japanese band. They were called Electric Eel and the drummer wore nothing but a strategically placed sock. um, it was