Something like, "Kodo is a group of Japanese drummers that perform on a worldwide scale but remain rooted in the local community of Sado Island, Japan," would probably be appropriate. One could also add that Kodo has been esteemed internationally and at home as a group dedicated to the re-creation of traditional Japanese performing arts.
No. While we have surely been influenced indirectly by having our base in such a "treasure house" of traditional performing arts, we should stress that Kodo is not a preservation society involved exclusively in the passing down of local Sado traditions. The annual rite of Ondeko (Demon Drumming) indigenous to Sado and our former group name, "Sado no Kuni Ondekoza" (Demon Drummers of Sado Island), are also often confused. However, there was no direct connection between the former "Sado no Kuni Ondekoza" and the local Ondeko, nor is there presently any relationship between Kodo and another group of taiko drummers from Japan who go by the name of Ondekoza. Finally, one more word of caution: the word "Kodo" is often mistakenly used overseas synonymously with taiko drumming itself. Please remember that Kodo is one of a number of Japanese taiko groups, not the genre of taiko drumming itself.
All together there are currently 80 members of Kodo, including 26 performing members (19 men, 7 women) , 31 staff members and 4 junior members. The performers range in age from 21 to 62 years old. We have 3 staff members from Sado Island. Our other members come from as far away as Hokkaido and Okinawa, and from everywhere in between. (as of April 2013)
Apprentices who hope to be players (there are also apprentices who hope to become staff members) spend two years living together communally in what was once an abandoned schoolhouse. After this period, apprentices who have been selected to become junior members spend one more year training and practicing in the hope that at the end of the year they will be chosen to become part of the Kodo organization.
In the past, the group lived communally as a whole. This is still true of the younger members who live together in the Kodo village, but our senior members now live outside the village in nearby communities and commute to the village every day.
We began with the ultimate goal of setting up a university for the study of traditional Japanese arts and crafts. We felt that we could raise the necessary funds for such a school by traveling around the world playing taiko concerts. Currently, with taiko as the focus of its performance, Kodo now holds the largest number of concerts abroad of any Japanese performing arts group.
Although our original plan to build a school on Sado Island has evolved into the idea (now a reality) of our Kodo Village, the recent creation of the Kodo Cultural Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to research into and the re-creation of traditional Japanese culture, has brought us back full-circle to our original goal.
Nestled in its diverse natural surroundings and nursed by the vitality of its still thriving performing arts, Kodo has benefited immensely from our 17-year long association with Sado Island.
Although the main focus of the performance is taiko drumming, other traditional Japanese musical instruments such as fue and shamisen make an appearance on stage as do traditional dance and vocal performance. Kodo's performances include pieces based on the traditional rhythms of regional Japan (O-daiko, Yatai-bayashi, Miyake, Yamauta, Nishimonai), pieces composed for Kodo by contemporary songwriters (Monochrome, Chon-lima), and pieces written by Kodo members themselves (Zoku, Irodori, JANG-GWARA). The pieces that Kodo performs can change from concert to concert. If you are coming to hear Kodo play a specific piece, it's best to call the Kodo office beforehand to check (0259-86-3630). Kodo's performances normally last about one hour and forty minutes.
We mainly use Miya-daiko and Shime-daiko (drums whose shell consists of one solid piece of hollowed-out wood) as well as Oke-daiko (drums whose shell is constructed out of a number of separate wood planks). While the cowhide head of the oke-daiko and shime-daiko are fastened on with ropes that stretch along the sides of the drum body, the heads of Miya-daiko are fixed in place by metal tacks. Depending on the size and shape of the shell, miya-daiko are called O-daiko (large drum), Chu-daiko (middle-sized drum), and Hirado-daiko (flat-barrel drum).
The shell of the large O-daiko is made from the trunk of a large, African Bubinga tree, and its heads, each measuring over one meter in diameter, are made from the hide of one large cow. The weight of the drum together with the stand (yatai) on which it rests is a staggering 400 kg. (882 lbs.). There are roughly 30-50 of these drums currently in performance use in Japan.
The Kodo group is comprised of the taiko performing arts ensemble "Kodo" and three separate organizations that look after the group's wide range of work.
Kitamaesen, Co., Ltd. manages everything related to Kodo's performance projects, Otodaiku, Co., Ltd. manages the group's intellectual property, and Kodo Cultural Foundation is a public-interest corporation that oversees activities focused on social education and regional revitalization.
The group's international arts festival "Earth Celebration," held every summer on Sado Island, is managed by the Earth Celebration Committee, a cooperative effort between Kodo and Sado City.