Since 1981, when its international debut at the Berlin Festival provoked encore calls for an hour, Kodo has been spreading the word and sound of taiko -- traditional Japanese drumming -- around the planet like evangelists. Using a varying range of Japanese percussion, including the nearly 1 ton o-daiko, which is crafted from the solid trunk of a tree, and instruments such as flutes, cymbals, and bamboo xylophones, the ensemble's members move from the ferocity of pounding thunder to the serenity of a tiny fountain trickle, from the explosive and energetic to the quiet and retrospective.
Kodo, whose name translates to both "heartbeat" and "children of the drum," performs at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, UC Berkeley campus. Sunday's performance is a "Family Fare" show; tickets are half-price for children 16 and under. (Note: Kodo claims babies have been lulled to sleep by the vibrating sounds of taiko.) Tickets are $20-40; call (510) 642-9988.