February 1st, Moscow, Russia. The European tour is offically underway. In addition, I have reached a personal milestone. Allow me to elaborate (but not too much).
For the last European tour I was a junior member. I was inexperienced and I discovered that there are some aspects of life on the road, away from the performances, where I was completely clueless. So then, experience became my teacher and it was a very harsh one.
In a nutshell: I made mistakes. Small mistakes, big mistakes? (I hear you asking.) How do we judge these things? In this case, the actions were indeed small, yet, in terms of the level of humiliation I felt – it was huge. Therefore, I became determined to redeem myself, my reputation and self image.
I decided that I would focus and work really hard, so that when I next returned to Europe, my ‘errors’ would be behind me, firmly in the context of ‘an understandably naive action’. (It is actually quite funny on reflection, apologies that no details are being offered, at least not by me.)
It is strange and interesting how the low points in our lives can become turning points. Today I can look back on my younger self with forgiveness and gratitude.
It is the same voice of experience that can confidently say ‘this tour is going to be a completely joyous experience’.
This will be my third tour but my first to Europe. Our opening performance is in Moscow, Russia. So, for me, preparing to leave holds some familiar experiences and some fresh curiosity.
How will audiences respond to our reinterpretation of the Kodo classics in ‘Legacy’? Those signature pieces that Kodo has been performing for nearly half a century. But now, we are this troupe, here and now. What will remain the same as before and what will be different?
Intense preparation and practice is our lifestyle at Kodo Village—it becomes both our confidence and our pride. Therefore, Kodo’s legacy is instilled in our bodies and now we travel to share that gift with our audiences.
Yet, we are more than professional percussionists. We offer more than just the sound of drumming. We each offer our individual commitment and dedication to create the composite experience that is Kodo.
We do so with respect for the past and fresh ambition for the future.
My hope is that each member of each audience, at each performance, will leave with an imprint on their soul. An echo of the music that we have instilled in our bodies.
Where is Kodo performing today? (February 4, 2020)
We spend most of our time on tour away from Sado. Every time I come back to the island, the beautiful nature and scenery, the food and people, they always clear away any fatigue I brought back from the road. This place resets me.
The longer I live on Sado, the stronger I feel a sense of this island nurturing all of us at Kodo.
Our current touring work takes a look back at Kodo classics and gives us an opportunity to reflect on who we are right now. The cast ranges from veterans to newcomers, so it’s a chance for audiences to discover the appeal of a wide range of generations within Kodo today.
I am grateful to everyone on Sado Island who constantly supports our activities. I’ll put my appreciation into each beat at our performance here.
I hope you’ll join us there on November 20!
Shunpuu ya, toshi idakite, oka ni tatsu A haiku by Kyoshi Takahama (Translation: Spring wind, fighting spirit, standing thus on a hill)
When I was a student, I happened upon this haiku and, for some reason or other, it stayed with me. I used the theme of this poem to compose “Shunpuu.” The haiku is filled with determination that gives the reader a sense of bravery, and even breeziness. I hope people feel powerful and invigorated when they play Shunpuu and when they hear it.
I’d like to take this opportunity to share a few of my thoughts about this new initiative, Kodo One Earth Music. In the taiko community right now, there seems to be a lot of people who learn from one master or teacher. So when it comes to playing a song that someone else created, they may feel a little reluctant for reasons other than performance rights. I hope sharing pieces that anyone is free to play helps remove those invisible barriers. When we perform other people’s compositions, we can experience different values. So little by little, if taiko players exchange their values and feelings, I believe this will lead to the future development of taiko music.
You can’t talk about taiko in terms of relative merit. Just because someone’s taiko playing is technically accomplished, that doesn’t mean it’s enjoyable. And not all musical taiko pieces or performances induce strong emotions. So as taiko players, what should we do? What should we learn and share through this unique instrument? I want us all to sense, think, and discuss that together while we enjoy playing taiko. I’ve put those hopes into this piece that I’ve shared with you all.
Throughout my travels, I have been blessed with opportunities to meet many inspiring people from around the globe.
While I keep most of these conversations close to my heart, there is one quote in particular that I was reminded of during my time in China, which I’d like to share.
“Music and performing arts have the power to make the walls between us become a little bit lower. While it may only be a really little difference, it is a very significant difference.”
China has always been a country that was close yet far for me. Growing up internationally, making friends and meeting people of Chinese descent was nothing out of the ordinary. Chinese people make up the majority of inbound tourists in Japan, and I’ve always been surrounded by things that were “Made in China.” But the country itself? It has always been a great unknown for me. So I wondered…
Will people come to our concert?
Will they like it?
Are we going to be able to do this?
As we wrapped up our first performance in Guangzhou, I remember thinking, “What was I worried about?”
The applause and cheers that we received were as big as we’ve ever received. The audience was ecstatic.
It’s those moments that I think to myself that perhaps what we do has some meaning in this world after all. Maybe just a little bit, but maybe just enough.
My sincerest gratitude to the wonderful people who made this tour happen, and to the amazing audiences in China.
Kodo members watching the instruments getting packed up for transport back to Japan.