The Ondekoza, once seen, can never be forgotten. The male members strip down to breech clouts and ceremonial head bands. Then they begin a ceaseless, athletic pounding on traditional Japanese drums up to five feet in diameter. Often only percussion instruments are being played. Sometimes a flute plays over the drums. Sometimes everything stops while a Japanese lute plays. The effect is spectacular. The flute is very nice, especially in pieces like "Odaiko" where one can hear the traditional, breathy sound of the shakuhachi. The lute can sound delicate but also forceful and engaging, as in "Tsugaru Jamison II." The drums themselves are overwhelming, putting out an incredible clangor or a rolling, menacing thunder. In the background, while the drummers pound, there are martial-sounding cries which don't amount to singing, but probably to a stylized form of verbal conducting. This fits in with the spirit of the group, which seems to be dedicated to an ascetic or spiritualized athleticism. Clearly Japanese kaito music is not for everyone. For those who like percussion juxtaposed with delicacy and lyricism, though, it is likely worth a try.
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AllMusic Review by Kurt Keefner