Over the past three years, the “Kodo One Earth Tour” productions “Mystery” (2013), “Eternity” (2014), and “Chaos” (2015) have intentionally excluded the most iconic symbol of the ensemble: the o-daiko, or big drum. Instead, these past three years of performances have presented Kodo’s next generation performing new compositions — a telling sign of the group’s determination to move forward. The latest production, “Spiral,” begins by taking a look back at the innovative repertoire composed under the guidance of Artistic Director Tamasaburo Bando between 2009 and 2013.
The programme starts with a rousing piece, Kei Kei. The full cast takes to the stage playing taiko that are slung from their shoulders, thereby allowing the performers mobility amongst the reverberations. This captivating variation of the okedo-daiko (barrel drum) is further showcased in Phobos (2009), Mute (2013), and Kusa-wake (2013).
In Spiral, the performers are dressed in either all black or all white, their sleeveless costumes timeless and universal, sleek and subtle. The form-fitting outfits do not belong to any one culture. This allows today’s Kodo ensemble to freely express its sound without being culturally bound by their former stage attire: the Japanese knotted headband and workman’s coat, and the loincloth traditionally worn by each of Kodo’s big drum soloists.
After its hiatus in recent One Earth Tour productions, the monolithic o-daiko returns to the stage in Spiral. In this performance, the drum appears in the programme under the familiar title: O-daiko. The name “O-daiko” has been honored by Kodo since 1975, when the mighty drum first appeared in the programmes of Kodo’s antecedent group, known as Ondekoza. The taiko remains the same, but this next generation of drummers delivers a dynamic new style of performance. There is no drum cart with lanterns, no loincloths, and no cymbals or flutes. Instead, the massive instrument is flanked by its Western counterparts the timpani and bass drum, which Kodo uses to conjure deep and powerful cadences. This rhythmic universe promises to stir an audience to its very core.
The first act ends with Kodo’s timeless signature piece, Monochrome (1977). Intricately crafted by modern composer Maki Ishii, Monochrome is a thorough investigation of the tonal range of the shime-daiko, a high-pitched roped drum. This piece contrasts the simple yet wild nature of taiko performance, which is emblematic of Kodo’s direction today, as its next generation forges forward using a balance of raw power and honed skills.
The second act commences with Color (2009), which utilizes the same roped drums of Monochrome, but in a completely different way. The performers put down their drumsticks and experiment with different percussive sounds. They tap the drums with their fingernails. They rub the drums with their hands, and they throw clusters of jingling bells onto the skins of the drums. Humor reveals itself in their onstage interactions as they rhythmically hum, sigh and shout to the beat. After the entrancing intensity of Monochrome, this light-hearted approach comes as a welcome relief.
For the next piece, the stage darkens for the beautiful and captivating Ake no Myojo (2012). Female performers in flowing black skirts take to the stage to drum, sing, and dance as they spin in a perpetual state of sound and motion. Afterwards, the melodic bamboo flutes in Yuyami (2013) create an indescribable sense of nostalgia, which leads directly into the brand new piece, Ayaori (2016). An exploration of the myriad sounds of the odeko-daiko, Ayaori utilizes the performers’ dexterity and a range of drumsticks to conjure sharp and rich tones while deftly weaving them into a coherent whole.
The finale arrives as the title piece, Rasen, which means “spiral.” Rasen features eight performers, the main soloist playing a large flat hirado drum. Surrounding him are seven performers on nagado (long) taiko, okedo (barrel) taiko, and timpani. This powerful octet produces rhythms of complexity and precision while revealing the rich variety of drumming techniques that Kodo has discovered during its evolution. To compose Rasen, Tamasaburo Bando brought a range of Kodo performers into the creative process. Fresh newcomers joined young up-and-coming performers and core soloists, as well as veterans whose careers span some three generations with Kodo.
As the title suggests, Rasen is a whirling helix depicting the evolution of Kodo through its decades of rich history. Phrases from exemplary pieces such as Yatai-bayashi (1973), Miyake (1982), and Tomoe (2003) transport the audience from era to era. It’s a soaring journey through Kodo’s past and into its future. As the strong winds of change blow through the ensemble, this climactic finale shows Kodo’s unwavering footing. The ensemble fully acknowledges its thirty-five year history — all while clearly proclaiming its intention to look to the future.
When Tamasaburo Bando assumed the role of Kodo artistic director in 2012, he vowed to raise the artistry of taiko performing arts. The Spiral programme boldly demonstrates that his goal and his vision have manifested themselves in full.
2016 Japan Tour Schedule
Dec. 14 (Wed), 2016 Fukuoka Performance
Dec. 17 (Sat), 18 (Sun), 2016 Osaka Performances
Dec. 21 (Wed)–25 (Sun), 2016 Bunkyo Civic Hall, Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo
On Oct. 4, Mr. So Kuramoto, a Japanese scriptwriter, playwright, and director, visited Kodo Village with his family. It was a fresh, sunny autumn day on Sado Island. Our visitors watched Yosuke Oda play o-daiko, the big drum, in our rehearsal hall. Then they went and observed the apprentices practising tea ceremony at our traditional homestead, Izumi-tei. Next, they had a look around our nearby facilities, Sado Island Taiko Centre and Fukaura Schoolhouse, before they traveled over to Kodo Apprentice Centre where they watched Yoshikazu Fujimoto lead the apprentices through a taiko practice session.
Mr. Kuramoto has presented “Furano Juku” workshops for years in Hokkaido, where he helps actors and scenario writers to cultivate their skills. He asked the apprentices many questions about their life at the Apprentice Centre, their training, and their thoughts and hopes. Everyone enjoyed this fun opportunity for exchange.
The apprentices sang a lively folksong at the end of this special visit.
Kodo just gave its first-ever performance in Vietnam! It was a school performance that was closed to the public. We were so happy to see Earth Celebration 2016 guest artist Bac Ha again.
Next up, we have performances on Oct. 14 (tonight) and Oct. 17.
I visited Shiretoko Goko Lakes the day before our “Spiral” performance in Abashiri, Hokkaido.
Surrounded by nature, the peace and quiet there felt so good.
Luckily, I didn’t encounter any bears!
“Kodo One Earth Tour 2016: Spiral” Performance Details
Oct. 5, 2016
Hello, everyone. I hope you are all well.
The rice harvest has nearly finished here on Sado Island and the crops are drying on racks. We look forward to tasting the newly harvested rice very soon. One of the luxurious perks of living in a rural area is eating locally grown rice, and I have to say that Sado Island has particularly delicious rice!
Our “Spiral” and “Interactive Performance” tours are currently on the road in Japan. I encourage you to go along to experience these energetic performances at a venue near you. Both casts are largely made up of young performers. Everyday they work so hard to deliver better and better performances, so I am sure they will return to Sado Island even stronger after their efforts on these tours.
While the main tours have been on the road, I have been on Sado Island and performing in various places, too. Last weekend, I went to Korea with a select Kodo ensemble, which was Kodo’s first time there in 16 years. It was a whirlwind schedule, just three days and two nights, and we went there especially to perform with Kim Duk Soo and SamulNori at “Korea Japan Exchange Festival 2016 in Seoul.” It was inspiring to see so many Japanese and Korean artists performing in one place. At the end of the festival we all came together for an exciting, climatic finale.
Next I’m off to Vietnam for our debut performances there next week. This will be the 49th country where Kodo has given performances. We look forward to being reunited with EC 2016 guest artists Bac Ha and the other friends we made during our visit in February this year. We will perform at a music festival in Vietnam and we look forward to new encounters and further cultural exchange.
Our trip to Vietnam promises to be a great opportunity to learn more about the history and background of local musicians and our recent collaborators, as we found out last year after Earth Celebration when Kodo visited Suar Agung in Bali, Indonesia. It will give us all a chance to deepen our mutual understanding. In a few years time, perhaps we can invite guests from various countries back to EC on Sado Island for further collaborations, too.
Kodo tours regularly throughout, Europe and North America, but in recent years we are also enjoying the increasing number of opportunities that arise for us to perform on other continents, too. In the past year, with our performances in Hong Kong, Brazil, Indonesia, Korea, and next in Vietnam, we are traveling to new places and drawing on new inspiration. I am sure this will lead to each member, and our entire group, creating broader, deeper forms of music and expression, which we look forward to sharing with you all.
If you’re in Japan, keep an eye out for the November issue of “Dance Magazine.” It has a special feature on Kodo’s 35th Anniversary Concert “Hisho” (Soaring) with Blue Tokyo & Dazzle. It’s on sale now!
Photos: Masayuki Sakamoto (above) and Yuichiro Funabashi at Kodo Village holding the Nov. 2016 issue of Dance Magazine. They just got back from Korea.
“Dance Magazine” Nov. 2016 Issue
Kodo 35th Anniversary Commemorative Concert “Third Night ‘Hisho’–Soaring–”
Packed with a diverse array of powerful performances, the first act of Hisho features Kodo performing the compositions of Tamasaburo Bando. For the second act, Bando directs Kodo as they collaborate with two unique dance ensembles: the male rhythmic gymnastics troupe Blue Tokyo, and the street dance performance group Dazzle.
On Oct. 2 we took part in an event in Korea called “Korea Japan Exchange Festival 2016 in Seoul.”
As the title of the event suggests, it was a fun day of cultural exchange with performances by artists from Japan and Korea. We were so happy to have the chance at this event to perform with Kim Duk Soo and SamulNori for Kodo’s first time in 16 years.
We prepared for this collaboration with only a few long-distance conversations, but when we rehearsed together the day before, it all came together in perfect unison.
It was a short but really fulfilling stay and experience!
Kodo Appearances at “Korea Japan Exchange Festival 2016 in Seoul”
Oct. 2 (Sun), 2016 Seoul, Republic of Korea
Recently I was given the opportunity to take part in the recording of music for a contemporary dance production called “Cross Transit.” The music director Hiroaki Yokoyama came all the way to Sado for the recording with me! Mr. Yokoyama is such a talented person who has provided music to so many different artists.
These photos show our recording sessions at Kodo Village in the rehearsal hall. Most of the Kodo members are away on tour, so I was lucky to have the whole space to myself for this recording.
We layered my vocals to create depth, recorded my voice doing sound effects and animal sounds, and I spoke lines from a script. It was unlike any recording I have ever done before and it was… interesting! I look forward to seeing how it will turn out with the touch of Mr. Yokoyama’s magic.
Hiroaki Yokoyama, Sound Director (Profile courtesy of Cross Transit website)
He was born in Texas, U.S.A. and spent his childhood in the Netherlands.
During university, he toured with many artists as an assisting member and composed music for TV commercials, films, and animations.
He composes, arranges, and produces music for many artists including YUKI, MISIA, JUJU, Yuko Ando, and Kaera Kimura.
He has toured and played for Noriyuki Makihara, miwa, and Gen Hoshino on keyboard.
He currently is a member of Rendez-vous Band directed by Keiichi Sokabe and L.E.D.
Here on Sado Island, the late-August Ogi Port Festival signals the end of summer each year.
In August this year, we accomplished two great feats. At our 35th Anniversary Commemorative Concerts, we performed three diverse programmes over three consecutive days at Suntory Hall under the direction of Tamasaburo Bando. The wonderful acoustics of Suntory Hall echoed with the sounds of taiko and orchestra, while dynamic music and dance filled the hall with electric energy.
The performances commemorated Kodo’s 35 years of history, and also the past sixteen years spent working under the passionate guidance of Tamasaburo Bando. These performances were also a fitting “first step” into the future for Kodo.
The week after our celebrations at Suntory Hall, our annual festival “Earth Celebration” took on a brand new challenge by shifting its focus to Sado Island as a whole. Thanks to the support of many people, the festival was able to offer a wide array of events and activities all over Sado.
This year EC did not feature its symbolic Shiroyama Concerts. Instead, with events such as Kodo Village Concert (directed by Kenta Nakagome), EC Theatre (directed by Masayuki Sakamoto & Mitsuru Ishizuka), and Kodo Fringe Performances (led by Eri Uchida, Yosuke Kusa, & Yuta Sumiyoshi), this year the Kodo members were able to spend more time wholeheartedly enjoying the festival with people from Sado and afar, with more freedom for spontaneity and experimentation than we have had in recent years.
With great changes come a lot of hurdles, but I felt each Kodo member make the most of their unique talents to rise to this new challenge, and new buds of creativity certainly bloomed. I felt growth as the festival expanded to encompass the whole island for this summer celebration of the earth.
Both the Suntory Hall concerts & Earth Celebration took a great deal of time and hard work from rehearsals through to the actual events, and the look of fulfilment on the performers’ faces was a sign that they had all gained so much from these experiences, as did I. Kodo currently has time for rehearsals, a place to rehearse, and range of instruments to seek the sound we want to create. For us as performers, these conditions are irreplaceable assets. I think we owe this wonderful environment to everyone who has lent Kodo their support and guidance to date, to our audience, and to our staff. We are grateful to you all.
Without a moment to rest, the Interactive Tour and Kodo One Earth Tour “Spiral” have already set off on the road in Japan. We have small ensemble and solo projects underway, too, which like our tours will take the many things we gained through our experiences this summer on the road and pour them into our sound. We also look forward to bringing the new experiences we gain around Japan and abroad over the next months back home with us.
Yuichiro Funabashi, Kodo Ensemble Leader
Kodo One Earth Tour 2016: Spiral
This month, Chieko Kojima will appear in “Road to Kumano” a collaborative work with TaikoProject in Los Angeles. If you’re in the area, we hope you’ll come along!
Sep. 15 (Thu), 16 (Fri), 17 (Sat), 18 (Sun), 22 (Thu), 23 (Fri), 24 (Sat), 25 (Sun), 2016
David Henry Hwang Theater, East West Players, Los Angeles, California, USA
Doors Open: TBA
Dates & Start Times
Sep. 15 (Thu) 20:00
Sep. 16 (Fri) 20:00
Sep. 17 (Sat) 14:00 & 20:00
Sep. 18 (Sun) 14:00
Sep. 22 (Thu) 20:00
Sep. 23 (Fri) 20:00
Sep. 24 (Sat) 14:00 & 20:00
Sep. 25 (Sun) 14:00
Ticket Availability: Now on sale
Venue Website: http://www.eastwestplayers.org
Inquiries: TaikoProject http://taikoproject.com