“Taking Taiko to Schools” by Ryoma Tsurumi

Kodo’s new production “MEGURU” is on tour in Japan right now!

The director, Yuta Sumiyoshi, became a Kodo member not long before I did, so I am really interested to see how this work is received by all of you throughout Japan!

Meanwhile, I’m currently on tour giving Workshop Performances at schools throughout Japan. These concerts are mainly held as an opportunity for students to appreciate performing arts.

Our performances at schools differ from our theater performances in many ways. For one, there isn’t such a clear boundary between the stage and the audience in a gymnasium, and for two, we don’t have lighting to set the scene.

The biggest difference is the audience. At theaters, the audience is made up of people who are interested in our performance and paid to come along, but at schools, the audience is all children who are there as part of their lessons, with different feelings about being there.

I think the taiko concerts we give at schools are meaningful for various reasons.
Firstly, they provide an opportunity for children today to learn find out about a traditional Japanese instrument.

Photo: Takashi Okamoto

Secondly, the performances give children a chance to see people who have thrown themselves into doing something they love and pursued it as a career, which gives them an opportunity to consider their own future paths.

And for us, it’s an opportunity for new people to hear about Kodo.

These days, we can find out about anything we are interested in by searching online, but the downside to that is that if we don’t search for something, we don’t find out about it so easily. Also, we can watch and listen to anything we like on TV or online, so we tend to be easily satisfied by just watching screens.

No matter whether it’s acting, performing, or online shopping, seeing something via a screen and watching something live or in person is completely different.


I think that is particularly true for Japanese drums. No matter how good a surround system is, it simply can’t recreate nor convey the echo of live taiko resonating in your body.

That’s why we travel to schools to meet children, who wonder “What’s Kodo?” and “Is ‘taiko’ a festival?”, so they can see taiko firsthand and listen to it live. I think that is a really meaningful thing to do!

If the children who listen to our performance take an interest in taiko or our group, then I am really happy.

We are constantly striving to make each programme and performance better than ever. We always have that challenge on our minds.

But it doesn’t matter if we do something great or we do something bad if no one is interested enough to come and see what we’re doing. If no one is there to watch, we don’t know if something is good or bad.

So, we tour and perform all over Japan in the hopes of connecting with even one new person each day, hoping they be interested in what we do and want to see us again.

To our blog readers, I hope you’ll come and see Kodo perform, too! Each performance has a unique feel, so please come and enjoy yourself. I also encourage you to share your feedback and impressions with us afterwards.

OK, it’s a new day and another performance awaits!
HERE WE GO!!!

School Workshop Performances

 

“Traveling with Taiko” by Kengo Watanabe

Photo: Takashi Okamoto

Four years have passed since I became a Kodo member. Looking back, I see that all I could focus on was myself for those four years.

Photo: Takashi Okamoto

Where was I?
Who was coming to see our performance that day?

I thought I knew where I was and who I had met, but looking back, I probably didn’t really understand it all.

I visited many different places and encountered new people, culture, scenery, and sounds in each town.

Photo: Takashi Okamoto

Each and every day, we experience each place and express the sensations we encounter as sound on stage.
I think the experiences we have in each place are a very important part of traveling with taiko like we do.

 

“Apprentice Interactive Performance at Sado Special Support School” by Masami Miyazaki

Kodo apprentices are even busier than usual in the fall. Alongside their usual training, they have to harvest their rice crop, pick persimmons and ship them to Kodo supporters, take part in local festivals, staff the annual live-in workshop “Kodo Juku,” and present Interactive Performances. This year the apprentices gave five of these performances at schools on Sado Island. Today, I would like to tell you about the rather unique “Exchange Concert” they gave at Sado Special Support School on Sep. 28.


For this performance, the apprentices designed a workshop segment to let the students have some fun making music with them. When they started planning this part at the Apprentice Centre, the apprentices split into two groups and talked about their strategies, figuring out which instruments to use and how to go about using their time.

They raised concerns about problem areas and rethought and reworked their concepts over and over again. Then, at last, the content of the workshop started to take shape.

On the day of the concert, the students and apprentices all enjoyed performing together.

In the classrooms, the students performed for the apprentices and everyone got to know each other through self introductions and by spending time chatting together.

The Apprentice Interactive Performances are a valuable opportunity for the Kodo apprentices to perform in front of an audience during their training. They are a good chance for the apprentices to thoroughly consider what it means to appear on a stage, what they need to do to convey their sound and feelings, and what they want to express when they perform.

We are currently accepting applications for the Kodo Apprentice Centre 2018 intake.
Applications close on Nov. 10, 2017.
 
See here for details: https://www.kodo.or.jp/en/apr_en
 
 

“Kodo Interactive Performance in Mitaka on Oct. 7” by Kenta Nakagome

On Oct. 7, we welcomed the Myojo Gakuen Wadaiko Club to perform as our special guest at the “Kodo Interactive Performance” at Mitaka City Public Hall in Tokyo. Myojo Gakuen is the alma mater of cast member Kenta Nakagome. Here is a message Kenta wrote in the lead up to the performance.


All of a sudden, thirteen years have passed since I graduated from high school.

I look back and wonder how I felt back then when I played taiko.
I went to Myojo Gakuen because I wanted to play taiko, and naturally that is the reason I moved to Sado Island, too.

I wonder how the current wadaiko club sounds,

and I wonder how Kodo’s performance and sound will resonate with them.

I am happy to be able to return to this familiar place to play taiko.

I hope everyone who joins us there will enjoy the unique sound we create together with our drums and hearts.

I am looking forward to it.

Kenta Nakagome

Kodo Interactive Performance 2017 with Guest Appearance by Myojo Gakuen Wadaiko ClubOct. 7 (Sat), 2017 Mitaka City Public Hall, Mitaka, Tokyo

“The School Workshop-Performance Tour, Working Hard in Niigata” by Eri Uchida

On Friday June 16, I went to see the School Workshop-Performance tour in Niigata City where they are currently visiting elementary schools. Kodo gives regular performances at the many schools there.

I went to see our tour at an elementary school that is 10km from Niigata Station. I decided to rent a bicycle to go there. I don’t know what I was thinking… it was further than I thought. I should have known it would be tough on a bike with a basket and no gears. On the way back, I took the easy route by getting a lift back in the Kodo truck. (lol)

 

Ask any young person who went to school in Niigata City if they have seen Kodo and most of them will say that they have, at least once. That is largely thanks to Kodo’s Eiichi Saito and Kazuki Imagai and their efforts since our School Workshop-Performances began some twenty years ago. To visit all the schools in the city requires a morning and afternoon performance each day, at different schools each day. That means fitting ten performances into five days each week. With such a tight schedule, it’s important that everyone is as organized as possible to ensure smooth, good performances. To make sure that not even a minute is wasted, the preparation for the tour includes detailed meetings about loading in and out of each venue and then the cast and crew carry out simulations of how each day and situation will go.

On Friday afternoon, the end of the school week! The kids were so lively!

The School Workshop-Performance requires a lot of stamina, so the physical power of young Kodo members is essential for this tour. Currently there are three junior members on the tour and every day they are giving it their all. They have been on the road for one month now and since I last saw them at a run-through rehearsal on Sado, the young members have all grown in leaps and bounds. Every day as I learn I am reminded that the more you grow, the more you realize exactly what you still lack. The junior members still receive a lot of critiques from the senior members, and I’m sure they are being stretched to their limits. But now that I am a bit more senior myself, I can see that they are growing more than they may think. The senior members know if they praise the junior members too much they won’t improve, so they make sure they don’t give them too much praise. (LOL)
During my visit, I saw my fellow Kodo members all working diligently to better themselves and the performance. Regardless of seniority, they all worry, suffer, work hard, and enjoy themselves. I think they are all really valuable to Kodo.
Keep up that spirit, School Workshop-Performance team! Do your best!

The children flocked to the cast members after the performance for autographs. I hope they will come to see Kodo perform when they grow up, too. We’ll be waiting for you!


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