Kodo Rehearsal Report: “Eternity,” the Origin of Kodo and Taiko –Part 2–
“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” is the third programme directed by Tamasaburo Bando acting as the Artistic Director of Kodo. The first programme, “Legend,” connected new work of his own creation with Kodo’s staple pieces. The second programme, “Mystery,” incorporated new theatrical movements and pursued new expressions in an otherworldly space where light and darkness intersected. The Artistic Director’s vision for Kodo’s stage expression has continued to challenge the ensemble in brand new ways.
“In the past, we were more likely to be pounding the drums as hard as we could, gritting our teeth with our bodies covered in sweat,” says Tsuyoshi Maeda. “Then, Tamasaburo told us to slow down, and we practiced making small and delicate sounds for a while. This became an opportunity for us to rediscover the taiko and understand the full range of sounds possible from these diverse instruments.”
“We realized that it was extremely difficult to free ourselves from our own pasts, to move beyond what Kodo had done to date when we directed ourselves,” explains Masayuki Sakamoto. “We could not take off our original costumes and take risks. It was definitely very difficult for us to shed our old skin at first, but once we did, we were transformed and we embraced the idea of delving into the unknown. Tamasaburo sometimes says some rather unexpected things (Sakamoto laughs), but nowadays some of his ideas are surprisingly natural to us, too.”
“Until Tamasaburo came along, Kodo’s music was based solely around Japanese taiko and traditional Japanese folk arts, so we felt awkward playing Western rhythms and performing Western-styled dances,” says Mitsuru Ishizuka. “Tamasaburo was willing to make us do something new, and at first we were confused, but at the same time, we became very open and began to understand what he was asking of us.”
Through various projects, Kodo has been communicating with Tamasaburo for over ten years, long before he became the ensemble’s artistic director, so his ideas have permeated well throughout the group. This prepared Kodo to tackle the challenge of this latest production, “Eternity.”
▶Watch on YouTube http://youtu.be/8_BHh_OyRVs
June 6 (Sat) Ryutopia Concert Hall, Niigata City
June 7 (Sun) Joetsu Bunka Kaikan, Joetsu, Niigata
June 17 (Wed) Sagami Women’s University Green Hall, Sagamihara, Kanagawa
June 19 (Fri) Yokosuka Arts Theater, Yokosuka, Kanagawa
June 20 (Sat) Chigasaki Shimin Bunka Kaikan, Chigasaki, Kanagawa
June 26 (Fri) Pastoral Kazo, Kazo, Saitama
June 27 (Sat) Mikabo Mirai Kan, Fujioka, Gunma
June 28 (Sun) Kimitsu Shimin Bunka Hall, Kimitsu, Chiba
July 3 (Fri) Shin-Kabukiza Theater, Osaka City
July 4 (Sat) Shin-Kabukiza Theater, Osaka City
July 5 (Sun) Shin-Kabukiza Theater, Osaka City
July 7 (Tue) Matsumoto Performing Arts Centre Grand Hall, Matsumoto, Nagano
July 11 (Sat) Kyoto Performing Arts Center Shunjuza, Kyoto City
July 12 (Sun) Kyoto Performing Arts Center Shunjuza, Kyoto City
July 17 (Fri) Yawatahama-shi Bunka Kaikan Yume Mikan Dai Hall, Yawatahama, Ehime
July 19 (Sun) Miyoshi Shimin Hall, Miyoshi, Hiroshima
Koichi Imai (Freelance Writer)
Koichi Imai became a theater afficionado during his college years, and graduated from Nihon University College of Art. He went on to spend sixteen years working for “Theater Guide” magazine in Japan. Next, he assumed a public relations role at Matsumoto Performing Arts Centre, where he worked for over five years before becoming a freelance editor and writer. Based in the Nagano area, his current work focuses on theater, as well as artists, artisans, and farmers. He is also involved in organizing various events.