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“Shunpuu: The Beginning of Kodo One Earth Music” by Yuta Sumiyoshi

Shunpuu: The Beginning of Kodo One Earth Music

Shunpuu ya, toshi idakite, oka ni tatsu
A haiku by Kyoshi Takahama
(Translation: Spring wind, fighting spirit, standing thus on a hill)

Photo: Takashi OkamotoWhen 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.

Kodo One Earth Music

[Kodo MEGURU] Message from Director Yuta Sumiyoshi

Photo: Takashi OkamotoI am so happy to share Kodo’s new production “MEGURU” with audiences throughout Japan this month and next.
MEGURU means to revolve or come full circle. Based on that theme, I carefully crafted this programme from all new pieces, each created with a focus on conjuring scenery with sound.

All things in nature loop, there are no exceptions.
The sun and moon, water and life, they all revolve without exception.
All things that begin come to an end, then begin again. Beyond space and time, over and over again.
This phenomenon extends to spiritual things, too, such as souls and people’s feelings.

Photo: Koichi Kinoshita

Such cycles have turned for thousands of years, and perhaps the tales people hand down through time have influenced us unknowingly.
I’ve come to think that if people from different countries or cultures can imagine scenery in the same way, then an individual’s own memories or knowledge aren’t the only things that shape their perceptions.

So, what do we have in common?

Throughout time, I think we humans have always sought an understanding of the senses shared by all human beings, and this pursuit has continually led us into contact with the arts.
There are various artistic activities, such as art and music, but none of them are necessities for humans to live their lives.
Even so, humans throughout time have foregone sleep to draw pictures and to create music.

I too have moments when I only want to create music.
I get this feeling of wanting to give shape to something that lies somewhere within me.

I want to hear my soul’s voice.

That kind of impulse is like a tale in itself that has come around and around again. It’s also what I want to depict through this work.

I hope MEGURU will take us on a journey together in pursuit of that soul, a journey that circles imaginary scenery evoked by Kodo’s sound.
We will cherish each and every sound as we perform to facilitate this quest with our audience.

Photo: Riu Nakamura

MEGURU (Japan Tour)

Schedules

“Kodo Duo Masayuki & Yuta” by Yuta Sumiyoshi

Nov. 26, 2017

Photo: Takashi Okamoto

The duo of senior performer Masayuki Sakamoto and new comer Yuta Sumiyoshi (that’s me) was first formed in 2012 for the piece Kusa-wake in the “Amaterasu” production. For the five years that followed, I think I have spent more time than anyone else watching Masayuki perform in pieces such as Kei Kei, Hekireki, Kaden, and Dan.

Photo: Takashi Okamoto

I am grateful for the fact that I often was given the chance to perform right opposite Masayuki.

Photo: Mayumi Hirata

We played the piece Kusawake in Amaterasu, at Kanamaru-za, in “Mystery,” and “DADAN”.

That means we must have played that piece together in front of an audience over four hundred times to date.
Masayuki often said, “I wonder how many times we’ll play that together again…”
So when the day came when I said to myself, “There’s only two times to go!,” I felt a wave of emotion well up inside me.

Photo: Takashi Okamoto
Soon after I joined Kodo, Masayuki returned from Kodo’s Europe tour in the springtime and I trained under his instruction for the first time.

I seem to recall we were working on the shime-jishi taiko part of the piece SHAKE

However, what we were focusing on wasn’t phrasing or strokes. It was the atmosphere you create before you drum.
If you know SHAKE, then you probably know what that means, because SHAKE begins with a lead-in by the shime-jishi drum. Masayuki taught me that before you play the first beat, you should feel as though you are gathering the eyes and ears of the hundreds of audience members to all focus on your two hands.

“When you want to diffuse or draw in energy, you express that by changing the angle of your chest!” 
Even now, I still recall his words when I take the stage.

Photo: Takashi OkamotoI open up my chest when I move forward, and I drop my chest when it’s my turn to perform the backing part. The accents of the sound, and expression using my chest, it’s really about the music and your body speaking the same language.

Masayuki and I often enjoyed drinks together. Whether we were in Japan or abroad, he often took me out for drinks. (Or maybe I was the one who said “Let’s go!” more often than not…)
The first time Masayuki came to the Kodo dormitory to drink with me, I was so happy to drink with him that I drank too much in the first half hour and collapsed, so poor Masayuki was left drinking alone.
When it was Masayuki’s 30th birthday, I planned a huge BBQ in the garden at Kodo Village for him.

Photo: Takashi Okamoto
When we drink together, we talk a lot. It ranges from rambling about this and that to talking in depth about taiko. I got to know Masayuki’s character and nature, I learned about the mottos he holds dear, and we had a lot of silly fun together.

Our memories include the time we went to a yakiniku (BBQ) restaurant that wasn’t all-you-can-eat, and panicked in horror at the tremendous bill we racked up.
The time I went shopping with indecisive Masayuki to chose his new guitar.
The time we jumped in the sea, but the waves in the Sea of Japan were so powerful they threw us up onto the rocks.
We became hooked on having jam sessions with me on ukelele and Masayuki on guitar.
One time, we went for a run together before going out to drink German beer so the effects of the two activities would cancel each other out. This led us to come up with a saying that compares the quality of a “zero” from not doing something to the qualilty of the “zero” you get by canceling things out.
Each one of these memories were seeds we sowed that brought us closer together as colleagues and led to our perfectly matched sound on stage.


Masayuki is a guy who turns fake stoicism into his reality.
No matter how light his clothing and how cold he looks, he will say, “I’m not cold.”
No matter how tough the situation or how pale his face goes, he will say, “It’s a breeze.”
He is competitive about weird things, so even if he isn’t interested in something, if you cheer him on he will get in there and do it.

Photo: Ryotaro Leo Ikenaga
I sincerely respect Masayuki and I still look up to him.
He is a down-to-earth, friendly senior member who makes me always want to be at his side.

Photo: Takashi Okamoto
Masayuki is going to graduate from the Kodo group, and that means that I am going to graduate from playing with Masayuki.
My goal all along has been to stand out more than Masayuki, and now I am going to graduate from spending my days standing alongside him on stage.
There’s only two performances left. Niigata and Sado.

The “DADAN 2017” tour will continue throughout December, but Mitsuru Ishizuka and I were double-cast for this tour and Mitsuru is taking over for the December performances. So I will only perform two more times with Masayuki before the changeover.

Whether I cry or smile about it, there’s just two times to go.

Please, come and see our Niigata performance!

Please, come and see our Sado performance!

“DADAN 2017” Japan Tour

*Please note that this blog was translated after the two performances listed above.


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