Jan. 29, 2017
After the plane trip from Japan to the USA, the moment I arrived in Yakima felt like a baptism of sorts. I was plunged into a sub-zero world and I felt my body and soul flinch in the cold.
While it was freezing outside, all the locals were very kind and I felt their warmth through our interactions.
On and off stage, I truly felt firsthand that while we may live in different countries and have different cultures, all we need is the desire to share with one another for our hearts to communicate.
During our performance, we were uplifted by powerful applause, cheers, and whistles from the audience, and naturally we responded to each moment of “communication” with passion in each beat of our performance!
The DADAN 2017 USA Tour got off to a great start thanks to such a warm welcome and response in Yakima.
Now we are off to our next destination… I wonder what encounters await me today?
I will do my very best until the last performance of the tour and I plan to learn as much as possible during my travels.
Jan.–Mar. 2017 “DADAN 2017″ –Kodo 35th Anniversary Production– USA Tour
Jan. 24, 2017
My Last Tour
I am about to set off on my last tour with Kodo, the “DADAN” USA Tour.
I am really looking forward to exchange with people in the USA through taiko and our performances!
Heading to the US! DADAN 2017
We’ve just left Kodo Village for our North American tour of DADAN!
Sending us off were the newest members to the Kodo family- the junior members, fresh out of the Apprentice Centre.
Personally, it’s been four years since I’ve been back home in the US.
We look forward to seeing you all!
“DADAN 2017″ USA Tour –Kodo 35th Anniversary Production–
Performers: Masayuki Sakamoto, Yosuke Kusa, Yuta Sumiyoshi, Jun Jidai, Shunichiro Kamiya, Ryoma Tsurumi, Kengo Watanabe, Ryotaro Leo Ikenaga, Hayato Otsuka, Reo Kitabayashi, Issei Kohira, Masayasu Maeda, Koji Miyagi, Kodai Yoshida
*Cast is subject to change without notice.
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)
Chieko Kojima Appearance with TaikoProject in “Road to Kumano” (Los Angeles, CA, USA)
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
United States of America Ambassador to Japan Attends “Spirited Summer” Performance in Asakusa
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
United States of America Ambassador to Japan Visits Kodo Village
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.
Obon in the USA
This year I took part in some of the Obon festivities in the USA. I’d like to share some of my memories from that experience with you all.
Some years ago, I think it was in 2001, I gave a present to San Jose Taiko in California: the melody and song lyrics for their taiko piece, “Ei Ja Nai Ka.” Then, people started to dance to that song at Obon, and this year it was chosen as the official music for Obon in California. When I heard that people were going to dance to it all over the state, I got so excited and decided to head over to the USA to witness the spectacle firsthand.
On July 11 & 12, I took part in San Jose’s Obon festival, which I had heard was the largest in the USA with 1000 people joining the dance circle each year. The turnout was even beyond my expectations! Volunteers from a local Buddhist church set up stalls selling foods, sundries, fans, toys and all kinds of things, and they really made the festival lively! In Japanese-American society, the Obon Festival is a ceremony when you remember your ancestors, as well as a time to reaffirm your connection with your community. It’s the most important family event of the year for many people.
I sang surrounded by 1000 people dancing and it really filled me with strength. The call and response during the song was so powerful. It made me so happy and it was such an honor to join them all.
Many people came along wearing yukata (summer kimono) and some fun costumes also caught my eye. I was impressed right away by how international Obon is in America. The people there looked like they were all from different races, but despite appearances, apparently most of them have Japanese heritage.
The USA is a multicultural nation, and that’s why people have such a strong, deep awareness their own community. In Japan, people say we are “only Buddhist for funerals,” but people who go to Buddhist churches in the U.S. also have weddings there and it appears that their religion is more a part of their daily lives than it is in Japan.
On July 18, I took part in the Obon festival in Venice, Los Angeles. Unfortunately, it rained that day. They decided to cancel it, but then changed their minds saying, “We can’t possibly cancel a festival that commemorates our ancestors!”
Luckily their enthusiasm and all the dancing eventually drove the rain away.
Races continue to blend more and more in society as time goes by. And this event continues to be a special occasion for people with Japanese heritage to think about their existence and give thanks to their ancestors.
Next year, I would like to come back for the Obon festival held by Senshin Buddhist Temple in L.A. They don’t set up stalls or the like, they just dedicate their efforts to holding a memorial ceremony for their ancestors. I hope I can make it.
San Jose Obon Festival
Greetings from San Jose, California!
Yoko Fujimoto and I attended one of the nation’s largest obon festivals this weekend. The obon culture in the United States is a little different, as many take place on various weekends and different locations throughout early summer.
Let me tell you a little about the one that we attended: San Jose Obon.
Obon: an annual Buddhist event to commemorate one's ancestors
San Jose Obon is famous for hosting great taiko performances by Californian collegiate groups and San Jose Taiko!
San Jose Taiko was established before Kodo was founded, and our groups have been great friends since the very beginning. They have supported Kodo in many ways over the years, including the storage of some of our touring equipment in their studio!
Taiko performances, food, and games are enjoyed by friends and family throughout the entire Obon weekend.
At the end of each night many people gather for…..
Here at San Jose Obon, over 1,000 people gather and dance to live music played by the Chidori Band and San Jose Taiko.
One of the dance pieces is called Ei Ja Nai Ka.
The taiko music was composed by PJ Hirabayashi from San Jose Taiko and the melody and lyrics that were written by Kodo’s Yoko Fujimoto.
This is a popular dance piece that has been enjoyed for many years, mainly by the Northern Californian communities, and it was truly wonderful to hear Yoko’s voice accompanying it live this year!
This piece will actually make its debut at a further 18 new obon festivals this summer, so if you are in the United States this summer, make sure to check out an obon festival near you! You might even hear Yoko’s vocals…