Posts by Kodo Ensemble Leader
Dec. 7, 2016
The Year’s End
Hello, everyone. How are you?
The end of the year is upon us. How was this year for you? Personally, I became the Ensemble Leader of Kodo in the group’s 35th year and it feels like it was just the other day that I was penning my first greeting… that’s how fast this year has flown for me! Thanks to your support, the help from our senior members, and guidance from many people, Kodo has carried out a broad range of projects in many regions and countries. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to everyone who made our activities possible.
“Kodo One Earth Tour: Spiral” is currently in the final leg of its Japan tour. Since the premiere at Suntory Hall in August, the program has been gaining depth on the road with every performance. We really hope you will come along to the theater to experience the sound we have been crafting over the past months, and years. Let us “charge your batteries” with the sound of taiko so you can start the new year fully energized.
By the way, as the year’s end started to approach, I was doing some tidying and I came across a memo of a passage I had written down from an essay I read at the beginning of the year.
“Everything that grows changes. And it becomes more complex. With growth, how we think and behave becomes more complex, more multilayered, and we become more detailed and profound.”
These are the words* of philosopher and martial artist Tatsuru Uchida. They are words that express feelings of worry about Japan. He says Japan is moving backwards… that Japan’s sudden growth and changes are accompanied by fear and distortion. This is strikingly clear when you look at the political and economical situation in Japan and abroad.
*Note: This is an English translation of the original Japanese quote.
However, this year I took part in our “Chaos” and “Spiral” tours and these words made me think of Kodo, a group that is constantly trying to grow. In the middle of the growth process, we have a certain rawness. But I felt firsthand that Tamasaburo Bando used these productions to present Kodo with a future mission. This experience made me become determined to create performances that our audiences will thoroughly enjoy and to always share good sound.
Next year will begin with our “DADAN 2017″ USA Tour, “Hatsune Miku x Kodo Collaboration”, and encore performances of “Michi.” In spring, we will take the stage with Tamasaburo Bando for a brand new production, “Yugen.” As you can see, the first half of 2017 will be a very exciting, productive six months.
Next year, we will continue to pour our hearts into creating soul-stirring sound that will move and energize our audiences. We will do our very best to make next year a wonderful year. We wish you all a happy, healthy new year.
Yuichiro Funabashi, Ensemble Leader, Kodo
On Our Travels
Hello, everyone. I hope you are all well.
In the past couple of years, Kodo has had more chances than usual to visit countries outside of Europe and North America. This year we gave performances in Vietnam, Brazil, and Korea. Last year we performed in Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia and Eastern Russia.
I visited three of these countries this year with Kodo:
- Brazil, just before the Olympic Games,
- Korea, which has a sense of distance from Japan these days that is not geographical,
- and Vietnam, whose considerable economic growth is being likened to that of our nation during its post-WW2 rapid economic growth period.
These concerts came about through rather challenging processes, unlike our established tours in Europe or North America, but the experiences we gained by spending quality time in these places with local people were all invaluable and rich. Above all, I was able to feel the power of performing arts and music, which bring people together for exchange that leads to mutual understanding.
While I am traveling, I have much more time to read books and articles than when I am at home on Sado Island. Some of my fellow Kodo members are also book lovers, so I often see people reading on the road as we travel from place to place. (Others listen to music, tap their drumsticks, watch performance videos, and so on.) Every day, I like to look through the newspaper, which is a habit I’ve somehow kept up since childhood.
On the road, one of the ways I enjoy my travels is by making a point of reading local newspapers and content related to the places we visit. This year I went to Brazil and Vietnam, so I read well-known travel journals by Kotaro Sawaki and Takeshi Kaiko. As I traveled from place to place, I wondered, “Is this the place he was talking about in his book?” If I have free time, going to a bookshop makes me feel refreshed. I am shocked to see that my bookshelves at home have suddenly become packed, but I think buying things that you like is a little investment in yourself. It enriches your soul. Well, that’s what I keep telling myself. When I buy and read books, I feel gratitude to everyone connected to their creation.
Less than two months remain in 2016 and we still have many places to visit on our travels.
As always, we will bring the “fruits” of our tours with us back to Sado Island, then set off again on further travels.
Yuichiro Funabashi, Kodo Ensemble Leader
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.
At Summer’s End
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
A New Endeavor
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
June 11, 2016
“Seek, Honor, Hone”
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
May 10, 2016
Firstly, I would like to offer my condolences to the people of Kumamoto who have been suffering the effects of the damaging earthquakes last month and continual tremors ever since. I sincerely hope that the earth will settle right away and that their situation will improve very soon. Stories of the damage from friends and family in the Kyushu region have made us think hard about what we can do to cheer them on. By touring there as planned in the months ahead and sharing the sound of our taiko, we hope to encourage them as the recover from this natural disaster.
On Sado, it’s the season for planting rice. The paddies harden during the cold winter and when spring arrives, the earth is warmed and nourished by the sun. Then, when the time comes, the paddies are flooded with water to plant the rice. The glistening rice paddies make for such beautiful scenery. As I mentioned in my last post, this month we are rehearsing for productions for next month, later this year, and even next year. Honestly, we don’t have a lot of time during this rehearsal period to gaze at the scenery, but we all enjoy the glimpses of the beautiful rice paddies that we catch on our way to work each day.
One of the new productions that we are creating is called “Yugen”*, which will premiere in spring next year. The concept for this work is based on classical Japanese arts such as Noh theater. The creation process is moving along very, very slowly and with intensity, like a Noh actor moves on stage. So at the end of a rehearsal session, there is a unanimous sigh from the cast as we switch off our intense focus. We can already feel a sense of fulfilment from creating a truly unique new work. Each day we are learning and discovering new things from the classics of Japanese culture.
*English title TBA
Also, the cast for “Spirited Summer” are rehearsing with dedication for their July performances in Asakusa. The programme features pieces that were part of Kodo’s repertoire when our ensemble was founded. The young Kodo members are learning the pieces by focusing on the heart of the fundamentals, which requires many hours of practice from early in the morning until late at night.
This spring, we have also welcomed many guests to Kodo Village for rehearsals in preparation for our 35th Anniversary Commemorative Concerts in Tokyo this August.
This spring was our fifth year to hold Kodo performances in Shukunegi, here on Sado Island. The concerts during Golden Week were held at the newly renovated Shukunegi Community Hall. We presented a programme directed by Tomohiro Mitome and we thank all the people who came along to see the performances.
Kodo continues to work on a wide range of activities. Like the beautiful, glistening rice paddies, our ensemble has a firm base, but in order to grow each year we need to continually absorb many different elements.
Everyday, we are tackling new challenges head on and we hope to share signs of growth with you all at our upcoming performances.
Taiko Performing Arts Ensemble KODO
Apr. 4, 2016
The Joyful Buds of Spring
It has just been announced that Kodo Artistic Director Tamasaburo Bando has been awarded not only the Japan Art Academy Prize but also the Imperial Prize. We would like to express our sincere congratulations to Mr. Bando. All of Kodo is truly grateful for the extremely valuable time we continue to spend under his direction.
April on Sado Island is a season for festivals. Each village is practicing demon drumming (onidaiko) to prepare for their local festival, so we can hear the sound of taiko deep into the night all over the island. After a long winter, spring on Sado is colorful and beautiful. I hope you will come and see the great scenery and joyful buds and blooms for yourself during the upcoming “Kodo Sado Island Performances in Shukunegi” this Golden Week.
Kodo is spending this month and next focusing on rehearsals and creating new material for various programmes that we will present over the year ahead. We are working with our artistic director and a range of visiting guests on our 35th anniversary concerts as well as our next One Earth Tour productions, “Spiral” and “Yugen.” We look forward to sharing many new works with you, so I hope you will look forward to seeing them, too!
Last month I went to Brazil with Kodo on our first tour there in eight years. Having just hosted the Soccer World Cup in 2014 and with the upcoming Olympics, I was expecting Brazil to be brimming with energy, but the economic situation in Brazil is not favorable and their political world seems to be in turmoil with problems relating to the president and so on. Despite the challenging economic and political climate, we were greeted with boundless energy from our audiences and we were given many opportunities for exchange with samba teams and Japanese Brazilian communities, which were such precious, rare, invigorating experiences.
Brazilians are cheerful and big-hearted and I will never forget spending time with them, feeling the passionate heat at traditional samba meets, and the moments when the Kodo performers became one with our audiences. Also, I clearly remember the inquisitive nature of people in Brazil, demonstrated through all the questions about Kodo and the roots and significance of taiko during our many interviews and discussions. Brazilians live in a nation with a long history of immigration and I felt their strong interest in other cultures. This experience gave me a new opportunity to reflect on my own roots as well as my future path.
Brazil is 12 hours behind Japan and while we were there it was 20 to 30 degrees hotter. Giving performances on the other side of the world, I felt a unique heat that radiated from the passionate, energetic people we met there. As we left Brazil, we vowed to return there again.
Taiko Performing Arts Ensemble KODO
Hello, everyone. This is Yuichiro Funabashi. I hope this message finds you all well.
Since late January, a young cast of 17 Kodo performers has been touring throughout Europe with “Kodo One Earth Tour 2016: Mystery.” The production gains shape and depth with each tour and there has been a great response in Europe to this performance.
I was here in Japan at the end of January and I took part in a collaboration in Kyushu with Yufuin Genryu Daiko called “Kodo × Genryu Daiko in Japan Taiko Premium Concert 2016 ‘Utsu.’” The members of Yufuin Genryu Daiko all have different jobs as their main occupation and they do their taiko training diligently around their work schedules. I learned so much from the sound they created and their passion. From the rehearsals right through to the after party, we had such an enjoyable, enriching time together. It was a wonderful concert which seamlessly featured professional and amateur taiko players together. Also, all four Kodo Distinguished members appeared in this performance, so it was a valuable experience for me to reaffirm their powerful presence and the importance of continuing to perform and hone your skills.
Then I went on a research trip to Hanoi in Vietnam for about a week in the middle of February. The population of rapidly-developing Vietnam is about to exceed 100 million people and I heard that the country’s current state resembles Japan’s rapid economic growth in the past. But with an average age of twenty-something, the most striking thing I noticed while I was in Vietnam was the people’s enthusiasm and youth.
On this trip we were searching for new ideas for our summer festival,”Earth Celebration” (EC), and we had so many wonderful encounters during our time in Vietnam. Their situation is complex due to the politics, economy, and history, and I’m sure many people have difficulties that we couldn’t see just by looking. But their pride and love for their performing arts was obvious. I was so deeply impressed by the musicians we met and the resolute way they live their lives. Before this trip I had never had the opportunity to encounter Vietnamese music and while it was a short stay, I was captivated by the diverse music and sounds of Vietnam, as well as the warm people we met there.
This summer, we hope to share some of this music with you at EC. We have almost decided on the guest artists to invite to Japan and the program that we will share with everyone at the festival. Kodo will share updates with you as they become available. I sincerely hope you will all join us so we can create a new-look EC together. Last year we welcomed Suar Agung from Indonesia to EC, and this year we look forward to hosting guests from another country in Asia. I am sure it will be a fruitful experience for all of us.
▲Unpacking & setting up at a theater in Brazil
This month, I went to Brazil with the “DADAN 2016″ tour. I constantly feel grateful for the wonderful encounters I have in Japan and around the world through my activities with Kodo.
This month marked five years since the Tohoku Pacific Earthquake. While it may not be much, I do believe that as performers, as taiko players, we should all think carefully about what we can do to help, and put our hearts into it, as we continue our performances throughout Japan and worldwide.