My Travels in the USA
Happy New Year, everyone!
Late last year I was traveling through the USA. In case you missed it, here is a link to a blog post by Kodo staff member Yui Kawamoto who accompanied me for the first leg of my trip: [Kodo Blog] “Taiko Fun in Los Angeles!” by Yui Kawamoto
Starting in Los Angeles, I traveled to San Diego, Las Vegas, Chicago, and New York, to lead workshops and take part in concerts.
Everywhere I went, I met so many different people. Taiko players and musicians, and people who are neither. Each community I encountered welcomed me and I enjoyed all kinds of exchange during my stay. Sometimes it was through sightseeing. Sometimes it was over a drink. Sometimes it was during a jam session. I was so well looked after by all the people I spent time with everywhere I went.
If I start writing about what I did in each place, well, that will turn into a very long story… (lol)
So, I would like to write about some of what I felt and the lessons I learned during my travels in the US.
I planned this trip based on my own desire to see what I could do alone, as one person. Until now, I have always relied on the support of others in various ways… musically, linguistically (lol).
So I wanted to stand on my own two feet and face all those challenges myself. As I set off on this trip, I thought of it like a journey to gain and hone skills.
Instead of creating sound with a group (in my case, Kodo), on this journey all that sound would come from me. I mean that physically speaking it would be just me playing and that I would be responsible for the sound I created when I played with others. I wanted to step up to each occasion as myself, Yuta Sumiyoshi from within the Kodo group, and not as “Kodo.” I would appear alone in jam sessions, naturally, but I would carry that intent into my ensemble performances and workshops, too.
On this trip, I had many opportunities to improvise during performances. I rediscovered the sensation you get when the sound you create ignites your fellow performer, right there and then. It reminded me that when I play with Kodo that we absolutely need to feel that sensation during our performances, the sense of creating stimulus as we perform.
That sensation of spurring each other on when you perform on stage.
Noticing how good it feels, and how intense it feels until you reach that point.
Wondering how to get there. Wondering what kind of flow you want to create.
And it’s not just me playing, so I consider what kind of sounds can I create amongst different musicians. What sound do I want to create?
It’s like having a conversation with sound instead of words. (My communication in English is also like that at times, lol)
Next… I’ll play this! And I’ll add a break… here!
This back and forth becomes music and the interaction creates one big flowing dialogue.
These new sensations were really eye-opening and taught me so, so much.
The workshops I led in each place I visited were also really invigorating experiences for me. My mindset was to convey as much as possible without relying on an interpreter! (lol)
I have written about this before (maybe not in English) but in a workshop you appear as your real self. You can’t fake anything and you can’t pretend to be something you’re not. When I stand before others in a workshop, I can convey what I am particular about when I play and what I keep in mind in general. Each workshop was full of lessons for me, in the same way I learned a lot through each performance. In workshops, questions fly about from different perspectives than I am used to with Japanese people. Some questions are sharp and to the point, others are broad. In many instances, the questions I was asked made me suddenly aware of my feelings and theories about all sorts of things!
I could keep on writing about so many things, but there is too much to say and I still haven’t figured out how to sum up what I experienced on this trip. For now, I’m going to let it sink in, bit by bit, and I am going to share more thoughts with you all once the words come to me.
I am truly grateful to everyone who I met during my travels around the USA in late 2016. I am already looking forward to seeing you all again soon!
Dec. 3, 2016
Taiko Fun in Los Angeles!
Hi, everyone! Today, I am reporting from Los Angeles, California.
I grew up in this sunny city up until I began working for Kodo, as one of the staff members who handles international projects.
I am currently back home to support the first portion of Yuta Sumiyoshi’s solo performances and workshops in the United States.
The United States have one of the largest taiko population outside of Japan, and the taiko culture that exists here is one of a kind.
Everyone who is affiliated with taiko is mostly connected through the taiko community, and we exchange new ideas and thoughts in full support of one another.
Today, I would like to talk about some of the American taiko culture that Yuta Sumiyoshi was able to experience during our time in Los Angeles.
The first thing we did after flying in was an intensive workshop at the Los Angeles Taiko Institute inside Asano Taiko USA.
Despite the fact that it was Thanksgiving weekend, we had a full house for Yuta’s 5-hour workshop!
We had a wide range of age and experience levels, and everyone had a fun, challenging time!
This was Yuta’s first time conducting a workshop in the U.S., and he was able to utilize his English skills that he’s been working on.
For this workshop, he taught on multi-drum set.
In America, shime taiko and okedo taiko are commonly used for a taiko set, but for this workshop, we used two drums with a closer tone to sing the rhythmic phrases, which may have led to some new discoveries for the participants.
And I also want to tell you all about collegiate taiko as well!
The number of collegiate taiko groups have increased throughout recent years and there are more than 15 collegiate taiko groups just in California.
The first ever collegiate group was formed in 1990 at my alma mater, UCLA, called Kyodo Taiko.
I believe that my current job at Kodo was made possible with what I gained through my collegiate taiko experience, and I was thrilled to be back to introduce one of our star performers, Yuta Sumiyoshi, for a workshop.
And of course the session was held in the parking structure of the university!
With so many active clubs on campus, it is always a challenge to find a good practice space that can accommodate the loud sound that the taiko makes.
Hearing the car alarms go off during the workshop reminded me of my college days practicing really hard all the time.
Many groups in the US plays on these taiko drums made out of wine barrels, beautifully refined for performance.
Not many collegiate taiko groups have the opportunity to learn from professionals in Japan, so I was excited to see everyone immersed in the workshop, and to hear them tell me, “That was the most fun I’ve had playing taiko in a very long time”.
Our time in Los Angeles will end with an exciting show which is already SOLD OUT!
On Ensemble is one of the most respected ensembles in the world, recognized for infusing the powerful rhythms of taiko with a wide range of musical influences from jazz and rock.
Joining On Ensemble is former Kodo performer Kaoru Watanabe from New York, to present new material from his album Néo, with Fumi Tanakadate, a multifaceted musician based in New York City, and our very own Yuta Sumiyoshi.
The complexity of the musical groove created by these musicians is like no other.
Several rehearsals have taken place so far in Los Angeles, and at last, the performance is tomorrow!
If you still want to check out what Yuta Sumiyoshi has been up to with his collaborations, he will also be in San Diego to guest appear in Kaoru Watanabe’s concert featuring his new album, Neo on December 5th!
Yuta Sumiyoshi Solo Projects in the USA (Nov.–Dec. 2016)
Upcoming Kodo Collaboration with Virtual Singer Hatsune Miku!
“Two of Japan’s Renowned Artists Come Together for an Exciting New Collaboration!”
In the lead up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, Japanese Broadcasting Company NHK will broaden the global spotlight on sports to also showcase Japan’s fascinating culture through their “This is NIPPON Premium Theater” series. These NHK productions will be broadcast nationwide and worldwide to share creative programs featuring an eclectic array of Japan’s preeminent artists, showcasing the dynamic spectrum of Japanese arts and culture.
In March 2017, Kodo will appear in “Hatsune Miku x Kodo Special Live,” taking to the stage with software-character-turned-virtual-singer Hatsune Miku for our first-ever collaboration. We look forward to this cutting-edge performance where traditional Japanese drums and internationally-renowned digital live-performance programming will create exciting new forms of fusion.
Hatsune Miku will perform brand new songs and a selection of her most popular numbers. She will also sing with Kodo, lending her vocals to some of our taiko compositions. We hope you’ll join us for this truly unique concert event!
This collaboration is part of the Tokyo 2020 Official Program.
Official Website: http://kodo-miku.com
This is NIPPON Premium Theater –Hatsune Miku x Kodo Special Live Performance
Mar. 4 (Sat), 5 (Sun), 2017 NHK Hall, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo
Mar. 4 (Sat) Doors Open 18:00, Start 19:00
Mar. 5 (Sun) Doors Open 12:00, Start 13:00
Price: S-seats 6,900 yen, A-seats 5,900 yen, B-seats 4,900 yen (Tax incl., same price for advance & door sales)
*Ticket holders will be given a limited-edition penlight at the venue in exchange for the “Penlight Voucher” issued with each concert ticket. Please be sure to bring both the concert ticket and “Penlight Voucher” with you to the venue.
Seating Details: All seats reserved. Please refrain from bringing preschoolers (ages 5 & under).
Ticket Sale Dates & Outlets:
Pre-Order Ticket Lottery: From 11:00am on Dec. 13 (Tue) until 11:00am on Dec. 20 (Tue), 2016
Ticket Pia Pre-Orders http://pia.jp/t/kodo-miku/ (Online, mobile phone)
General Sales: From 10:00am on Jan. 14 (Sat), 2017
Ticket Pia Online/Mobile http://w.pia.jp/t/kodo-miku/
Ticket Pia Automated Telephone Reservations Tel. 0570-02-9999 [P-code: 316-825] *Open 7 days, except during maintenance periods.
Ticket Pia Outlets: Hours vary according to store, see here for the list of outlets: Find a Ticket Pia Outlet (Japanese)
Seven Eleven Convenience Stores: Available from multi-copy machines [P-code: 316-825] *Open 7 days, except during maintenance periods.
Circle K Sunkus Convenience Stores: K Station [P-code: 316-825] *Available 5:30am–2:30am.
Inquiries: Hello Dial Tel. 03-5777-8600 (8:00–22:00, open 7 days)
The “Hatsune Miku” voice synthesizer software was developed by Crypton Future Media. It allows users to make a female character called Hatsune Miku sing songs, simply by entering the lyrics and melody of their choice. Many creators have used Hatsune Miku to make music to share online, which has prompted a wave of interactive user activity in Japan and abroad. First gaining attention as a software character, Hatsune Miku is now popular around the world as a virtual singer with sell-out live performances and her own merchandise. In 2016, she gave performances in five major cities throughout Japan, followed by performances in North America and Taiwan. In Dec. 2016, Hatsune Miku performances will be held in Beijing and Shanghai, China.
Official Website: http://piapro.net/
Kodo Featured in Nov. 2016 Issue of “Dance Magazine”
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.
Korea Japan Exchange Festival 2016 in Seoul
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
Recording Session for “Cross Transit”
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.
Rehearsals for “Kodo Village Concert”
We have returned to Sado Island after our Kodo 35th Anniversary Concerts at Suntory Hall and leapt straight into rehearsals at Kodo Village with the EC 2016 guest artists from Vietnam! We are collaborating to make new pieces together to perform at Kodo Village Concert on Aug. 26.
We are so curious about each other’s culture and music.
The current atmosphere in the Kodo Rehearsal Hall is both harmonious and electric!
We look forward to sharing this feel-good exchange and collaboration with you all soon at EC.
We are waiting for you all on Sado Island! See you soon!
Earth Celebration 2016
Aug. 26 (Fri)–28 (Sun), 2016
Sado Island, Niigata
Thank You for Joining us for “Spirited Summer”!
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.
May 16, 2016
A Moving Trip of Firsts
Hello, everyone. I am Issei Kohira, a new Kodo junior member. Nice to meet you all.
From May 10 through 15, I went to Singapore with Kodo.
It was my first time performing overseas with Kodo! Actually, it was also my first time to ever travel abroad!
I was a little anxious as I left Japan for the first time and took the six-hour flight to Singapore. As soon as we arrived, along with the humidity I felt the cheerful warmth of Singapore surround me and my worries quickly disappeared.
Soon after arriving, we went to the rehearsal studio of the local taiko group, Hibikiya, who invited us to Singapore. Then we visited the concert venue.
The waterfront venue, Esplanade, has an outdoor stage and the “backdrop” features some of Singapore’s iconic tourist spots: the Merlion and the Marina Bay Sands. There was also a mall there that was bustling with people enjoying meals and shopping. So just being there was fun.
Kodo went to Singapore for a collaboration with Hibikiya, which has so many members and they are so passionate about playing taiko. Their performances also incorporate bamboo flutes and shamisen (Japanese banjo) and they often invite instructors to their group from Japan to give workshops. I was really moved by their attitude towards taiko.
During their performance, I watched them from behind the stage. They were so lively as they performed and I could feel their love for taiko. Their passion struck my heart and it was uplifting.
Meanwhile, when I reflect on my own performance, I have many things to work on as an inexperienced newcomer. It took all my might to try and keep up with the Distinguished Members and senior Kodo members. However, every single move they made taught me, and supported me, so I was able to give the best performance of my current capabilities and strength. During my first performance abroad, I learned where to position myself on the Kodo stage.
Leaving Japan for the first time and traveling overseas, I met people who love taiko and I learned that in only four days we could create such strong bonds, connected through the power of taiko.
I hope that this experience, full of firsts for me, will help me to grow even more.
Next up, I will appear in “Kodo One Earth Tour: Chaos.” This will be my first domestic tour with Kodo. I will be the youngest on this tour and I will perform with all of my might on stage throughout Japan.
I am raring to go!!!