The 1979 film about Kodo’s antecedent group Sado no Kuni Ondekoza, entitled “The Ondekoza,” has been selected as one of two films from Japan to screen in the Classic Category of the 2016 Venice International Film Festival from Aug. 31 through Sep. 10. The other film from Japan is Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai.”
This screening commemorates the 100th birthday of director Tai Kato. The film will also be shown in Japan from Nov. 19 through 27 at Tokyo Filmex. Further screenings are also being planned.
Hello, everyone. How are you?
It has become really hot in Japan recently and the cicadas have already started chirping. I was on tour for the past couple of months with the School Workshop & Interactive Performances. We have completed our Spring–Summer 2016 tour and returned to Sado Island last week. I will be leaving Kodo soon, so my final performances will be the 35th Anniversary Commemorative Concerts in Tokyo and at Earth Celebration on Sado this August.
During my final tour, we mainly performed for school children in Kumamoto, Iwate, Niigata, and Hyogo Prefectures. We encountered a wide range of students on tour. Some of the pupils had never heard taiko before, some of them play taiko regularly, and some of them told us that our performance had made them want to start playing taiko.
In a world that is becoming more and more modern, I would like for children to not be only interested in the latest or most convenient things. I want them to know about classic or traditional things and then, based upon that knowledge, I want them to consider various new things. This is what I had in mind when I performed at schools on this tour.
When our performances would end, one student would share their impressions with us on behalf of the student body. I was really happy to hear some of them say things like, “It was my first time hearing taiko and it was interesting,” or “I want to explore Japanese music as well from now on.” At times, I felt my tears join the sweat on my face as they spoke to us.
I mentioned that our performances were mainly in four different prefectures on this tour. And they all have something in common: earthquakes. These four areas have experienced particularly large earthquakes. I heard locals talking about their experiences during and after the earthquakes and it was all unbelievable and unimaginable for me. Some taiko groups lost their practice space and instruments due to the damage from these earthquakes. My heart ached to hear about it all.
However, the people we met in these places had not lost their smiles. Some of them said to us, “The gods are telling us we can recover from this.” We had a chance to perform for people who were greatly affected by these devastating earthquakes and after our performances some of them said things to us like, “You’ve given me power to face tomorrow,” and “I feel confident again.” Personally, I was so happy to have so many wonderful encounters on my final School Workshop & Interactive Performance tour. I was happy to hear that I was able to help people in even a small way.
I sincerely hope they will recover from those disasters really soon. I hope our Interactive Performance tour will always continue, too.
Thank you very much to everyone who looked after us throughout our tour.
This year we will present a Minakuchi Bayashi lecture & demonstration at Earth Celebration! If you’re making the trip all the way to Sado this summer, I hope you’ll join us to take a step even deeper into the world of Japanese performing arts through learning about Minakuchi Bayashi, one of Shiga Prefecture’s intangible folk cultural assets. Come along to hear all about this folk art and watch a demonstration of Minakuchi Bayashi, featuring a few Kodo members, too! Then some attendees will have a chance to play Minakuchi Bayashi with us. This event will be conducted in Japanese, and English support will be provided as required.
The Kodo members who will take part in this event are busy practicing Minakuchi Bayashi in preparation for the demo and Fringe performances. We look forward to seeing you all at Marine Plaza on the second day of EC (Saturday Aug. 27) to enjoy Minakuchi Bayashi.
(PS: It’s air-conditioned so it will be cool and fun!)
Earth Celebration 2016 (Sado Island, Niigata, Japan)
Aug. 27 (Sat) 14:00–15:30 Minakuchi Bayashi Lecture & Demo at Marine Plaza Ogi (2F)
Facilitator: Eri Uchida (Kodo)
Inquiries: Kodo Ticket Service
Event Details: http://www.kodo.or.jp/ec/en/event/lecture/mizuguchi/
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