“Eternity,” the Origin of Kodo and Taiko –Part 2–
Original Japanese Article by Koichi Imai (Freelance Writer) ● Photos by Takashi Okamoto
Orders from the Artistic Director Help Us Rediscover the Allure of Taiko
This particular run-through rehearsal was held in the middle of September 2014. The atmosphere was slowly changing from the summer air of Kodo’s outdoor festival “Earth Celebration,” held between August 21 and 23, into an autumnal mood. But despite the cool winds blowing outside, the rehearsal hall at Kodo Village was warmed by the energetic rehearsals for “Kodo One Earth Tour: Eternity.” As the Kodo performers had been scattered all over the world on separate tours in the months prior, rehearsals in which all members were present were extremely rare and the level of concentration was intense. “Let’s use all new pieces for this programme,” said Artistic Director Tamasaburo Bando, and that’s how everything for “Eternity” started in January 2014. Until then, Kodo had mostly assembled or arranged their tried-and-tested pieces to form a programme, but “Eternity” was not created in this way: Instead, it began from scratch.
The Kodo members were invited to share their visions of “Eternity,” and discuss these as a group. “We shared ideas and talked together a couple of times,” explains performer Yuichiro Funabashi. “Some of the ideas were in the form of music, others members had ideas about how the taiko should be played or the positioning of the instruments; it could have been anything. Then Tamasaburo took these ideas and began to build the programme. He arranged some ideas into new pieces, used parts from others, and thus the programme developed.” Afterward, the “seeds” the Artistic Director planted had to be nurtured by the Kodo members, and the overall vision for the programme became clear at the beginning of September.
“Eternity,” the Origin of Kodo and Taiko –Part 1–
Original Japanese Article by Koichi Imai (Freelance Writer) ● Photos by Takashi Okamoto
When I first visited Sado Island, I was impressed by the powerful sun setting beyond the horizon. This autumn, a new Sado Kisen Car Ferry had just been christened the Akane, which means “powerful red,” an image that perfectly captured the essence of that sunset. The name also calls to mind the toki (Japanese crested ibis), a protected species of bird raised with deep care and affection on the Island. I remember thinking that the sunset on Sado captured all of the island’s brilliant natural splendor at once; somehow it was much more dramatic on that day than any other.
While I was watching the rehearsal of Kodo’s new programme “Kodo One Earth Tour: Eternity,” this same feeling came to mind. The rehearsal had a nostalgic feel, like an autumn festival from days past. The warm sounds of the drum and the warmth of the sun setting behind the stage seemed to capture the essence of Sado completely.
By any measure, “Eternity” is a profound and epic title.
Artistic Director Tamasaburo Bando explains this choice as follows:
“When I was contemplating the theme of eternity, it occurred to me that ‘the workings of nature’ unfold in cyclical patterns, and that perhaps in identifying those patterns, we could express ‘eternity.’ Strictly speaking, there is probably no such thing as ‘eternity,’ for us mortals, but there are some things that are eternal. The dawn, light, rain, wind, clouds, waves, stars, dusk, the night sky; and amongst all these, I saw ‘human beings.’”
The Rehearsal Hall: A Forum for Trial and Error Filled with Heart, Sounds, and Smiles
The workings of nature have enormous power that cannot be fathomed nor controlled by human intellect. A mysterious life force resides in even the tiniest buds. Perhaps eternity can be found in the different sounds of the taiko used to express the workings of life itself.
The opening piece, Yogiri (composed by Tsuyoshi Maeda), introduces the drama about to unfold as it spreads out into the darkness like a giant projection screen. The high-pitched tone of the orin (Buddhist altar bell) echoes like a cool wind blowing across the Island. Shinobue (bamboo flute) melodies call to mind the musical accompaniments of the autumn festival mentioned above, as various percussion instruments beat the base rhythm. This combination conjures an air of nostalgia for a time gone by, when repeated patterns somehow wove the fabric of our daily lives. At the same time, the sounds of waves and wind intertwine. The lasting effect of this piece is an appreciation of the richness of the nature– the ocean, mountains, et al– on Sado Island.
Chieko Kojima & Masami Miyazaki “Taiko Camp in Fukuchiyama”
Chieko Kojima & I led a taiko camp in Fukuchiyama from May 22 through 24. It was such a fun three days with the 18 participants who gathered from Maizuru, Himeji, Hiroshima, Gifu, Aichi, Yokohama, Tokyo, and even Australia!
On the first day, after the orientation, everyone got straight into the first taiko performance workshop, based on “Hana Hachijo.” Everyone was quite rigid and nervous on the first day. (But that night… they loosened up during a fun party)
On Day 2, in the morning we split into two teams: one went for a walk through the local hills while the other team made breakfast. Then we all spent the rest of the day playing taiko.
Everyone also learned part of a dance and got ready for a recital & mini concert to display everything they had learned.
That night, we were all licking our lips at the deer and wild boar on the BBQ. Then we gathered around a campfire and everyone danced like crazy to the sound of the taiko, chappa (cymbals), and bamboo flute.
We later found out that some people could hear us 10 km away!
On the last day, we held a recital and mini concert to show our appreciation to everyone who helped us, as well as to cheer on the people of Fukuchiyama, who have been hit by natural disasters in recent years. Everyone who came along, from little kids to senior citizens, had huge smiles from start to finish. We all danced a local dance together in a big circle to end the event.
Fukuchiyama is written using the kanji character for “happiness,” and the locals say you come there for happiness. I hope we can come again for some more happiness with them all soon.
This taiko camp was presented by the four members of Fukuchiyama-based wadaiko unit “Hitotsu.” We are so grateful for their warm welcome and generous hospitality. Thank you, Hitotsu!
After the camp, Chieko and I appeared on a local radio (FM Tamba) broadcast with Makoto Shimozawa, the leader of Hitotsu.
It’s now less than two weeks until the “DADAN 2015” performances. We wanted to make Kodo’s presence in Asakusa even stronger than last year, so we asked everyone in Asakusa to lend us a hand.
This style of vertical scroll poster is often seen around Asakusa, but it’s Kodo’s first time to make one for our performances. Many places have kindly displayed them for us.
We also made these postcards and they are available at cafes and other stores around Asakusa. Keep an eye out for them and share them with your friends!
And… do you know what these are?
Well, you’ll have to come to Asakusa to find out for yourself! I’m looking forward to telling you about these when the time comes…
Radio Nippon “Mine Ryuta no Minesta”
Today Yuichiro Funabashi and Masayuki Sakamoto made a live appearance on Radio Nippon’s weekday morning program “Mine Ryuta no Minesta” during the “Talk with Mr. Mine” corner. Thank you very much to everyone who tuned in! We hope you’ll come to hear them perform live at a theater sometime soon, too!
With radio personalities Ryuta Mine (far right) and Ai Handa (far left)
Live performance of SHAKE
▼For more about today’s appearance, have a look at the radio program’s blog (in Japanese).
“Mine Ryuta no Minesta” Program Blog
Photos courtesy of Radio Nippon
June 2015 “DADAN” in Asakusa, Tokyo
June–July, Sep.–Oct. 2015 “Kodo One Earth Tour: Eternity” Japan Tour
May 29 (Fri)–31 (Sun), 2015
Shinobue (Bamboo Flute) with Motofumi Yamaguchi
This weekend, we look forward to welcoming participants to the first in our new series of 3-day live-in workshops at Fukaura Schoolhouse: Shinobue with Motofumi Yamaguchi. If you’d like to register last minute, please call us to confirm your place without delay!
Message from Motofumi Yamaguchi
“Learning to play an instrument is similar to climbing a high mountain. Even if you work hard, taking one step at a time, it is not always easy to reach the top. But with each step you make upwards, you’ll encounter a brand new view.”
We’re looking forward to seeing everyone there.
Kodo Cultural Foundation Project: “Kodo Juku at Fukaura Schoolhouse” Live-In Workshops
[Live Radio Appearance] May 27 (Wed) on Radio Nippon “Mine Ryuta no Minesta”
On May 27 (Wed), Kodo’s Yuichiro Funabashi and Masayuki Sakamoto will make a live appearance on Radio Nippon’s weekday morning program “Mine Ryuta no Minesta” during the “Talk with Mr. Mine” corner, from around 10:00 am for approx. 20 mins.
You can listen to “Mine Ryuta no Minesta” for free in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Gunma.
For details on how to tune in, please see here: http://www.jorf.co.jp/LISTEN/ (Japanese information only)
[Kodo Online Store] Chieko Kojima Photo Book: Kasane no Kiyohime Monogatari –The Myriad Layers of Kiyohime–
Chieko Kojima × Maiko Miyagawa Photo Book
“Kasane no Kiyohime Monogatari –The Myriad Layers of Kiyohime–”
Now Available from Kodo Online Store
Chieko Kojima has based her life’s work on the story of Anchin and Kiyohime from the Dojoji Tales.
Over the course of a year, she let her own unique Kiyohime explore the four seasons on Sado Island to create a brand new tale in collaboration with photographer Maiko Miyagawa. This stunning collection is now available as a photo book.
Released: April 30, 2015
Price: 2,500 yen
Size: 32 pages (H: 25.5cm / W: 21cm)
Photo Book “Kasane no Kiyohime Monogatari –The Myriad Layers of Kiyohime–”
http://www.kodo.or.jp/store/34_1468.html (Japanese store webpage)
For orders in English, please contact the Kodo Online Store by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Orders can be shipped to 120 countries around the world.
Thank You All for Your Generous Support!
We are pleased to announce that our crowdfunding project to help share the story of Kodo’s first 30 years and before, “Inochi Moyashite Tatakeyo,” with libraries all over Japan was successfully funded.
I asked Takao Aoki, president of Kodo’s management company, Kitamaesen Co., Ltd., to choose some episodes from the book to share with you all. The book is only available in Japanese, so in English, we will share some of the main points through the photos below.
“Early in 1987, we got the shocking news that Kodo’s leader, Toshio Kawauchi (who we all called ‘Hancho’) had died in an accident in the Philippines. I took over the management of the group suddenly and every time I wasn’t sure what to do, I asked myself: What would Hancho do in this situation?”
“We forged ahead to realize Hancho’s vision of building a base on Sado Island for Kodo with a main building, living quarters, and rehearsal hall. Kodo needed a place to put down roots while traveling the world, to maintain balance between touring and home. I decided that it was important to carry out this vision, even if it was one step at a time.”
Mr. Aoki took over the reigns from Kodo’s first managing director, Toshio Kawauchi (Hancho), and has been steering Kodo forward ever since, one step at a time.
Mr. Aoki says, “I want Kodo to exist in 100 years from now, in 200 years from now… and at the heart of Kodo, there will always be people who play taiko earnestly. That is something we will always hold dear.”
■Online Fundraising Final Total for “Inochi Moyashite, Tatakeyo.” Project (as of May. 16)
711,000 yen (Goal: 500,000 yen) = 142% funded
We raised more than our goal, which means we can share more books with more libraries around Japan!
THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR GENEROUS SUPPORT, EVERYONE!
“Inochi Moyashite, Tatakeyo.” Project
“Inochi Moyashite, Tatakeyo.” Project (Japanese)
[May 24] BS Fuji Broadcast of “Kodo Eien no Hibiki” (Kodo, Echoes of Eternity)
Tune in on May 24 for a 30-min. program introducing “Kodo One Earth Tour: Eternity,” which will tour around Japan from June. It is a new version of the 2014 program with the same title, featuring new interviews and stage footage.
If you’re in Japan, we hope you’ll tune in!
Broadcast Date & Time: May 24 (Sun) 12:00—12:30
Broadcast Channel: BS Fuji
Program Website: BS Fuji “Kodo Eien no Hibiki” http://www.bsfuji.tv/top/pub/kodou.html
About “Kodo One Earth Tour 2015: Eternity”