i know what you mean!

saturday night recap

Posted on: February 4, 2007

Kodo was very nice last night. I was happy. Son was happy. The only annoying thing was, as I have noticed how this is becoming the norm, friggin’ american audience is now giving standing ovation to EVERYTHING, have you noticed? And not just standing ovation that I’m talking about here, it’s the giving highest accolade possible to things that are just good but not great. Anyways, about Kodo…

The drummers did show up dressed as pictured in the flyers, for the grand finale. The intense energy that went into that one number, while exhilerating, made me so tense. Because the guys (there were two, then three) wore pretty much a thong (per se), the viewers got to see how these drummers became one with their drums. Every single muscle on their bodies went into a frenzied united motion with each sound that came out of the drums, it was pretty incredible. The stances where extremely strenous for these guys. When they were sitting, the guys were at a 100-110 degrees angle while beating the drums. When standing, they were also standing at about 100 degrees angle, titling their bodies backward, and always looking up, facing the drums. It felt like a willing, ecstatic struggle between the drummer and his drum. The movements were both graceful and primitive, like kids gleefully beatting the hell out of things.

I’m too lazy to go into deep meditative proses to record my experience, but I did have one. For one thing, it felt extremely weird to have a bunch of drummers on a stage and a thousand people sitting politely watching them. It just didn’t feel right. I felt like I should be out in the field planting something (as in Kurosawa 7 Samurai ending, for example), or maybe smearing paints on my face and getting ready to go to battle. Such were the uses of these drums. They demand that people respond to their sounds, physically, not just mentally. For another thing, I wondered what happened to the Vietnamese culture of drumming? We did, after all, had some big ass bronze drums that dated pretty far back in human civilization. What happened to our drumming arts? Did we willfully toss all that away? Is there anything left?

Then I remember when I was in Vietnam, our school had a big drum that the school keeper would beat to mark time. A loud roll before class to signal warnings, another loud roll, more intense, to signal the start of classes. Then drum rolls for recess (beginning and end), and drum rolls for end of class. It’s something that I cherish in my heart, the uniqueness of my culture brought into a westernized institution of education. The sound of that old drum reverberated through every corner of my school, up and down the 3 stories, through the narrow hallways, across the playground… I wonder if there are still drums left in schools of Saigon, Hanoi, Hue… All the big cities of VietNam that are rapidly getting more and more technologically advanced. Remember the poem we learned in 2nd grade?

cái trống trường em
nằm im trên giá
chắc thấy chúng em
nó mừng vui quá

I don’t know if it’s in me, like in all humans, the yearn for the drum beats, be they joyful or terrible, because they resemble my mother’s heartbeats when I was in her womb. They Japanese said so. Or it was in me, the simple sound of an old red trunked drum, pounding thum thum thum 10 times a day, all through my life, harking back to whatever thing that is Vietnamese within me, then reverberating forward and backward, making itself my heartbeat, no matter where I go. I only know that I’m attracted to drums and anything rhythmic.

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Later!

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