From “Amaterasu” to “Mystery”: Part 2
Article by journalist Sachiko Tamashige
Behind the Scenes of “Mystery”
Jamai — the “Serpent Dance” — is derived from Orochi, known as “the Great Serpent Dance” from Iwami Kagura (Iwami: a region, the west part of Shimane Prefecture/ Kagura: dance and music for the kami, or deities).The Kodo cast members of Jamai absorbed the skill and spirit of this traditional folk dance by learning from local performers while in Shimane as artists in residence. Iwami is the name of this area in the western part of Shimane Prefecture. Iwami is famous for its historical site, Iwami Ginzan, the largest silver mine in Japan, a world heritage site. Kagura was originally performed to summon kami (deities) during traditional rituals of worship in shrines and other sacred places. Japanese traditional music, dance and festival culture has its roots in these ancient rituals. Taiko, or the Japanese traditional drum, was once regarded as a sacred instrument because of its magical power to conjure up the deities for tasks such as bringing rain to a region in need.
From “Amaterasu” to “Mystery”: Part 1
Article by journalist Sachiko Tamashige
Guided by the Mysterious Power of the Serpent
Aside from the dim outline of a mountain, the stage is shrouded in darkness. Look closely, and you may catch a glimpse of something undulating in the distance, then out of the black they appear: three giant snakes, entangled with each other. As they gradually reveal themselves, it becomes clear that a spectacular and ominous world awaits. Three snakes wriggle free from each other, their scales glinting in the dim light. The sound of the taiko takes on the cadence of a heartbeat as an eerie melody is played on a Nohkan, the bamboo flute used in Noh and Kabuki theater. Your invitation into a mysterious realm is complete. The snakes return to the darkness while the lights of lanterns float in the air like giant fireflies. Like an ancient lullaby, voices arise, transporting you to forgotten childhood memories.
Where exactly are we? Each of you might ask yourself this question in the darkness. Kodo’s unique sound and spectacle have the ability to transcend the reality around you.
In the autumn of 2013 — the year of the serpent — the brand new production, “Kodo One Earth Tour: Mystery” was revealed with this mesmerizing opening scene. Directed by Tamasaburo Bando and premiering on Sado Island, Kodo’s home and base of operations, Mystery consists of 18 scenes, including ones inspired by traditional folk dances such as Jamai, Namahage and Shishimai, and contains scenes newly created by members of Kodo such as Yomichi and Yuyami, along with pieces from the classic Kodo repertoire.
We performed at the special event for the new car ferry “Tokiwa-maru” before its public launch.
It was the first time for me to play taiko on a moving ship.
The weather was bad, so it rolled and rocked. Even when we bowed at the end of performance, it was hard to stand straight. This ferry is bigger and more beautiful than I expected! I know we will use this ferry a lot from now on.
April 4 Performance to Commemorate the Maiden Voyage of New Ferry “Tokiwa-maru”
A new ferry has joined the Sado Kisen fleet, which we always use to come and go from Sado Island. This was my first experience of performing on the sea. I was both really excited about the new ferry and really worried about getting seasick.
We set sail and our performance commenced!
We began with okedo-daiko piece Ugachi, which we played as we wove our way through the audience. Then we performed Hobashira Okoshi Ondo, a tradtional workmen’s song for raising the mast on sail boats. Kenta Nakagome played Odaiko, then to finish with a bang we all performed Yatai-bayashi. I could barely stand straight for the encore piece, but once you go with the motion of the waves, you get into a different groove than usual and that was fun in itself.
There is a 10-page special feature on “Kodo One Earth Tour: Mystery” in the March 26 Issue of Japan’s “Dance Magazine” (by Shinshokan). If you are in Japan, we hope you will pick up a copy.
Contents: Interviews with artistic director Tamasaburo Bando and Kodo performers Masayuki Sakamoto & Yuta Sumiyoshi
Shinshokan | Dance Magazine (Contents in Japanese)
From Hekireki, “Kodo One Earth Tour: Mystery” (Photo: Takashi Okamoto)