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Odaiko

The drummer summons his energy, filling his body as he pulls himself up, gathering every force within, like a current. Slowly he raises his sticks above his head. His body is taught, muscles and sinews stretched as tight as the drum skin. He hits the drum once. The sound is deep, rolling around inside the wooden shell, then echoing out, washing over the audience. Again he strikes the drum and lets the sound go, like thunder rumbling away into the distance. It’s as though he is hearing the sound for the first time, exploring its depth. Then he starts with a rhythm, working from the rim, quiet and slow, building and building, edging nearer the centre where the skin has tell-tale marks of wear. The giant drum is on a wheeled platform, self-contained like a festival float ringed by lanterns emitting a soft yellow glow. The lanterns begin to shake. He grunts with effort, says words of encouragement to himself, urges himself on. He strikes the boards with his foot as he changes stance, holding the rhythm, continuing the beat. Primal yells of effort come from his mouth. It’s not a performance—it’s an endurance test, a private struggle between the drummer and the drum standing high above him.

Odaiko

Jenny Hall

Melbourne, Australia

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