This year we will hold Eiichi Saito’s annual live-in taiko workshop “Kodo Juku” from Oct. 7 (Fri) through 10 (Mon/Public Hol.) at the Kodo Apprentice Centre on Sado Island. Eiichi Saito took over the reigns to facilitate Kodo Juku in 1992 and back then we held Kodo Juku 4 times a year. For some time now, we have held it just once a year but one thing that has barely changed is the content. Each year the participants tell us how the simple taiko drum led them to find new connections between their own body and soul and helped them to create wonderful new bonds with people they had only just met at the workshop.
Everyone is welcome at Kodo Juku, whether you’ve played taiko before or not. First-timers will discover the special power of taiko and experienced players will discover many hints to playing taiko that truly moves people. The only condition is that you’ve never been to Eiichi Saito’s Kodo Juku before, as it is a once-in-a-lifetime workshop with no repeaters or groups of 2 or more.
The application deadline is July 30, so don’t delay! We look forward to receiving your application soon and welcoming you to Sado Island for Kodo Juku this autumn.
The second year apprentices act as staff during Kodo Juku each year, learning valuable skills as they host the participants. Eiichi and the apprentices can’t wait to welcome everyone to Kodo Juku this fall!
Details for Kodo Juku 2016
Hello, everyone. How are you doing?
Time flies! All of a sudden, it’s the second half of the year. Kodo has been on tour throughout Japan for the past two months. Next month, we will hold our 35th Anniversary Commemorative Concerts in Tokyo and festival “Earth Celebration” (EC) on Sado Island.
As previously announced, EC is making a shift from being an event centered on outdoor concerts to a festival that aims to create a new “community” with roots in the local area. Many Kodo members spend a large portion of each year away from Sado Island. While we enjoy touring and sharing performances on the road, we want to take a fresh look at the place we call home, Sado Island, and think about how we can create our own deeper roots here on the island, too. By reconsidering the significance of our travels and our home, we hope our many activities will generate new energy and exchange here on the island.
Top Left: Food and drinks at Vietnamese New Year with a performance by Mr. Min Chi
Top Right: At the entrance to the rehearsal space & accommodations where Mr. Min Chi resides, home to a Cheo troupe.
Bottom Left: Musical exchange in a traditional bamboo house.
Bottom Right: Trying to play a Vietnamese stringed instrument with the help of a master of traditional music.
In February, during our winter, a few of us went to Vietnam and met the guest artists for this year’s EC, traditional music arts ensemble Bac Ha. I am truly looking forward to seeing them again and collaborating with them this summer in Japan. Just reminiscing about the energy of the festival we experienced with them in Hanoi makes my heart leap with excitement. The history of Vietnam is full of hardships and the current state of affairs is complex, but their pride and love for their performing arts remains very strong. This summer, we are not holding large concerts in front of many people at EC. Instead, we look forward to the chance to interact with our guests in a relaxed, fun way and to share that time with our audience in close proximity. We hope to learn from each other and that we will establish connections that lead to further performances and exchange on future occasions in different places.
EC will also present “EC Theatre” and Fringe Stage performances, where Kodo members can share new creative performances alongside other artists. Kodo members will also actively take part in the Sado Island Experience Programmes and workshops on offer, so we can spend time enjoying Sado Island with all the people who come along for EC.
This year’s EC is a new endeavor, so it will take some figuring out and getting used to for all of us. I truly hope EC will become an occasion for the participants, performers, and staff to enjoy a very special, meaningful, enjoyable time on Sado Island alongside the locals. We look forward to welcoming you to Sado Island for EC this August. See you there!
Earth Celebration 2016
Aug. 26 (Fri)–28 (Sun), 2016
Sado Island, Niigata, Japan
We had the pleasure of welcoming Mr. Robert Lepage to Kodo Village the other day. He is an actor and stage director who is renowned for his creative work directing productions such as Cirque du Soleil’s KA and TOTEM.
Many of Kodo’s performers and staff are big fans of his work, and we are very happy to hear that he has been a fan of Kodo for many years as well!
We are truly thankful for this lovely encounter.
Only three weeks remain on our current “Kodo One Earth Tour 2016: Chaos” Japan Tour. This production is a rather experimental performance and I have heard a range of feedback, both positive and negative. So, while it is towards the end of the tour, I thought I would take the time to talk about my feelings towards “Chaos” and share them with you all.
I play the drums, a Western drum kit, in this performance. Do you think I wanted to play the drums?
Well, honestly, I was really reluctant about it! (lol)
I am not sure whether reluctant is the right choice of word, but anyway, from the beginning I had this constant feeling of “We are taiko players, so why are we playing the drums?” That feeling got in my way and it stopped me from getting into our drum rehearsals properly. I was wondering if I should be playing the drums at all and I had a kind of restlessness that wouldn’t go away.
We learned to play the drums little by little, starting our practice about three years before the premiere of “Chaos.” But it took ages for me to be able to feel like, “OK! Let’s do this!” and to really put my all into it.
The biggest change in how I felt came one day during our drum practise. I think it was about six months before “Chaos” premiered. Yosuke Oda, Masayuki Sakamoto and I were side by side pounding the drums furiously. Drummer Tetsuya Kajiwara was yelling out the count for us, “One! Two! Three! Four!,” and we just kept on beating the drums with all our might. The sweat poured off us. We lost ourselves in the drums, just pummelling them relentlessly.
Then, that night after the practice, I noticed for the first time that the air in the rehearsal hall felt the same as when we have been practicing Yatai-bayashi non-stop, which is a traditional Japanese festival taiko piece as well as an iconic Kodo stage piece. It’s also the first thing that all Kodo apprentices learn to play during their training.
After we play Yatai-bayashi non-stop, a faint ringing lingers in our ears and a slight heat and smell of sweat lingers in the air.
When I noticed that sense, I thought: “It’s the same…”
The act of pounding something furiously. Perhaps it is the hunting instinct that lies deep within all human beings. When we face the taiko drum, that overwhelming primal urge to pound it arises from deep inside. It’s not an emotion like anger, it’s an instinct. It’s like a roar within you.
The feeling of your soul stirring and trembling.
At last, I felt that sense, that roar, when I was playing the drums. That roar that emerges when I play taiko.
I am Japanese, I am a taiko player, but this sense is deeper than that. It is part of my identity as a human being.
Well, I’m not really sure which words I should use to express what I’m feeling, but I can say that I felt this sensation intuitively.
So, getting back to the topic, some people see “Chaos” and say, “Why don’t you just play taiko?” Actually, I have always played taiko thinking that it was the right instrument for me.
I think everyone has a set idea about what taiko is, or should be. Not only taiko players, but also our audiences have a set idea about what they expect when they hear the word “taiko.” Taiko is an instrument created by using the trunk of a tree that is centuries old and covering it with animal hides. So it has a lot of life force and history within it. Whether it is on the surface or otherwise, as I said, the person who beats it will feel their soul stir. But I think most people take that for granted and don’t really give it a second thought most of the time.
So for us, beating an instrument for this performance that is not a Japanese taiko drum has led to many new realizations… and questions like these:
If we pound drums with plastic heads… can we convey the same soul stirring roar? Can we move people with our drumming, without the power of our taiko drums?
I think it would be great if we could do the same thing a puppeteer does on stage.
You may look at a puppeteer and think: Why do you use a puppet? You are a human, and humans can express many different emotions and move so fluidly. So you could express yourself better without the puppet.
But by expressing yourself through a puppet, something that is lifeless and inorganic, you are pushed to tap into the essence of your expression to make the puppet come to life so you can convey your intentions to the audience.
So I hope we can do the same thing using drums instead of taiko for this performance. By pounding the drums instead of taiko, I hope that we can tap into the soul and “roar” behind our drumming. I hope that it will become even more apparent to our audiences.
Of course, it’s not all about pummeling the drums like a maniac. By learning to play the drums and practicing hard, I have learned many new things related to music and technique that I would not have felt or discovered if I had continued to only play taiko.
When I perform on stage in “Chaos,” I try to put all these feelings, and everything I have learned through this production, into each performance.
We still have a few performances left on this tour and I really hope you will come along to see this production live on stage. I hope we can stir something deep within our audiences with our drumming, regardless of the instrument.
Over the weekend, the United States of America Ambassador to Japan, Her Excellency Ms., Caroline Kennedy, attended our “Spirited Summer” performance in Asakusa, Tokyo.
She visited us at Kodo Village last week, so it was wonderful to see her two weekends in a row. It was such an honor to see that she had enjoyed our concert.
Ambassador Kennedy, thank you very much for coming along!
Photo: Takashi Okamoto
Kodo Special Performance in Asakusa “Spirited Summer”
July 1 (Fri)–3 (Sun), 2016 Asakusa Public Hall, Taito Ward, Tokyo
Kodo’s “Spirited Summer” was held at Asakusa Public Hall from July 1st through 3rd and we were delighted to welcome many people to each of the five performances. Thank you all for your warm support and making this special work a success. We sincerely thank everyone who traveled to Asakusa to see us from all over Japan and abroad. We have shared a selection of photos from this performance below.
Photos by Takashi Okamoto
Hello, everyone! How are you?
This year it is Kodo’s 35th anniversary. Over the years our company has broadened its activities to encompass a wide range of performances. Since the days of Sado no Kuni Ondekoza, I have been a dancer surrounded by taiko players. I think I was able to maintain this position within the group thanks to the feel-good surroundings here on Sado Island. Nothing compares to the pleasure I get from performing on Sado Island.
I have some news. Former Kodo member Tetsuro Naito, who composed iconic Kodo pieces such as “Shake,” “Nanafushi” and “Itsuka Mata” (until next time) while he was with our group, and former Kodo apprentice Tomoko Takeda, who plays bamboo flutes, now perform as a duo called “Tomoro.”
This weekend, they will return to Sado Island for performances from July 2 through 6. While Tetsuro was a member of Kodo, he captivated audiences with his unique world of sound and these performances also promise to be unique and dramatic.
One of the concerts has been organized by the people of Kita-Taura, the village where the Kodo Apprentice Centre was located back when Tetsuro was an apprentice.
Another performance will be held at a Japanese inn in Sawata called Urashima. It will be a dinner performance with a creative Sado-themed menu.
Then there will be two performances at Hiyoriyama, a cafe in Ogi that many people visited last year during EC for the Kiyohime photo exhibition. So we have a mini tour on Sado Island from North to South. I say “we” because I am going to join them and I will collaborate with them at every concert!
I am so excited to encounter the sound of Tomoro here on Sado again. After the performances on Sado, we will head to Joetsu for a Yukiai concert. We look forward to seeing you soon at these four special locations.
June 24, 2016
Yesterday Kodo rehearsed with Miyake-jima Geino Doshikai for the “Matsurine” collaboration today. This concert is jam-packed with “Miyake Taiko” and I am pleased to say it’s already sold out. I am looking forward to the energy that will be created by this powerful performance with a full-house audience.
Kodo Appearance at Nagaoka Lyric Hall 20th Anniversary Concert “Matsurine 2016″
The United States of America Ambassador to Japan, Her Excellency Ms. Caroline Kennedy, came to Sado Island this past weekend to take part in an outdoor sports event called “Sea to Summit.” While she was on Sado, she made time in her schedule to visit us at Kodo Village.
Most of the Kodo members are currently away on tour or for special projects, so it was Kodo member Yoshie Abe and all 19 of the current Kodo apprentices who were on stand-by to warmly welcome Ambassador Kennedy to the Kodo rehearsal hall.
The apprentices gave a very energetic performance for Ambassador Kennedy, who then took part in a taiko experience session and tried her hand at a wide range of drums. Lastly, everyone played a piece together and then we showed Ambassador Kennedy around Kodo Village.
Kodo enjoys touring in the USA every two years and it is such an honor for us to spend time in Japan with diplomats from the USA, too.
Ambassador Kennedy, thank you very much for coming to visit us. We had a wonderful time with you at Kodo Village. We look forward to visiting the USA on tour again next year.
June 11, 2016
Hello, everyone. I hope you are all keeping well.
We spent April and May on Sado Island rehearsing for various productions and creating new works with our artistic director. It was a very fruitful period.
Now our “Interactive Performance,” “Kodo One Earth Tour: Chaos,” and “Premium Concert” tours are well underway. These tours will lead us straight into the “Spirited Summer” performances in Asakusa in July, the 35th Anniversary Concerts and new-look “Earth Celebration” in August, then from September we will tour in Japan with our next One Earth Tour production, “Spiral.” We look forward to seeing everyone nationwide during the months ahead.
Recently, I went to the Kodo Apprentice Centre for two days as an observer. The first year apprentices had only been there for six weeks. The second years had survived the long winter on Sado and now that there are junior apprentices, they have become the reliable seniors. There are 19 apprentices currently training at the Centre and they are all working very hard.
I also graduated from the Centre and looking back, I remember that fun days were few and far between. My memories are overwhlemingly of hard days, a hectic schedule, and tough daily routine. Even now, when I drive to the Apprentice Centre, my stomach gets tense as I draw closer to the grounds. But I know now that those tough days while I was an apprentice have formed the core of who I am today.
While I only visited for two days, I could see how the apprentices are doing and immerse myself in the atmosphere of the Centre. Seeing them, it reminded me that you mustn’t forget your original intentions and goals. I found myself gazing at the words framed on the wall, the former school’s education motto: “Seek, Honor, Hone.”
It made me appreciate once more being surround by people who have a hunger to learn and this environment where we can learn so many things.
Kodo Apprentice Centre cultivates the base and heart of the Kodo stage and the Kodo Group. I hope that many people will hear about our Centre and take an interest in the programme. If you would like to visit, or join the programme, please get in touch. Contact details are available on the webpage listed below.
Kodo Apprentice Centre