Kodo (taiko group)
Logo for Kodō.
|Origin||Sado Island, Japan|
Kodō (鼓童?) is a professional taiko drumming troupe. Based on Sado Island, Japan, they have had a role in popularizing taiko drumming, both in Japan and abroad. They regularly tour Japan, Europe, and the United States. In Japanese the word "Kodo" conveys two meanings: "heartbeat" the primal source of all rhythm and, read in a different way, the word can mean "children of the drum."
Although the main focus of the performance is taiko drumming, other traditional Japanese musical instruments such as fue and shamisen make an appearance on stage as do traditional dance and vocal performance. Kodo's performance include pieces based on the traditional rhythms of regional Japan, pieces composed for Kodo by contemporary songwriters, and pieces written by Kodo members themselves. Since their debut at the Berlin Festival in 1981, Kodo has had almost 4,000 performances, spending about a third of the year overseas, a third touring in Japan and a third resting and preparing new material on Sado Island.
Kodo was formed in 1981 and made their debut at the Berlin Symphony Hall in the same year. Kodo is sometimes considered to be simply renamed from the taiko group Ondekoza organized in 1971. Indeed, Kodo was formed out of the existing members of Ondekoza, but their leader, Den Tagayasu left the group before the transition and lead performer Eitetsu Hayashi left quickly thereafter. Tagayasu continued to use the name Ondekoza for his new group, and required the group to choose a new name. Hayashi, who departed from the group soon after its founding to begin a solo career, suggested the name "Kodo". Hayashi created the name based on the dual meaning of the word; the first, "drum children," was based on feedback from mothers that their music lulled their children to sleep. The second meaning, "heartbeat" originated from comparing the sound of taiko drums to the sound of a mother's heartbeat on her child in the womb.
The group spent the next 7 years touring Europe, Japan, North and South Americas and the Far East. Following this, they founded Kodo village on Sado Island, and also started an annual Earth Celebration, an international arts festival on Sado Island that is managed by the city of Sado and the Kodo Cultural Foundation.
In 1989, the group held its first drum workshop, referred to as Kodo Juku which includes introducing their training regiment and their approach to taiko performance. These workshops are held up to four times a year and do not require any background in drumming.
The non-profit Kodo Cultural Foundation was established in 1997, and three years later, they founded the Kodo Arts Sphere America organization in North America. This organization started to present workshop tours in 2003.
Kodo is arguably the most well-known and respected taiko group worldwide and has been considered an ambassador group for taiko performance outside of Japan. One component of their reputation stems from their training regiment, which at one time, included long distance running twice daily. A report on Kodo's training in 1989 stated that their approach had been toned down, but was still "disciplined" according to the program director, where performers would only run ten kilometers each morning.
In performance, players are often seen wearing a sole loin-cloth called fundoshi as a component of attire. Internal publications from the group state that they are used to help focus a player's strength while performing. Others have noted that the use of fundoshi clearly represents a masculine component to the Kodo's performance. After their performance at the 1984 Olympics, Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Herald wrote, "Glistening back muscles of a sweaty loin-clothed drummer are strikingly lit as he strikes the great o-daiko (large taiko) with massive sticks in a performance as much athletic as it is musical."
There are three organizations that handle Kodo's activities. Kitamaesen is the corporate that manages member salaries, employment, tour booking, and is a general managing entity. Otodaiku, manages group copyrights, the development and sale of musical instruments used in Kodo's performance, and the groups recordings. The group's non-profit activities, such as the Sado Island Taiko Center (佐渡太鼓体験交流館 Sado Taiko Taiken Kōryūkan?) are organized under the Kodo Cultural Foundation.
Kodo Village is a collection of buildings intended for Kodo's management and tour staff, and represents their headquarters. The Village is situated in Ogi on the southern part of Sado Island. Construction of these buildings began in the mid 1980s. The first building, an administrative center, was completed in 1988, and by 1992, a rehearsal hall, a dormitory, and a reception house were also constructed.
Originally, the concept of the village was proposed by Den Tagayasu prior to his departure from the group; he intended to develop a sort of academy for artisan craft and performance arts. However, after the project was initiated by Toshio Kawauchi, its purpose shifted toward integrating Kodo's presence more permanently on Sado Island. Prior to Kodo Village, the group rented out an abandoned schoolhouse as its Apprentice Center. Furthermore, the Village was also used as a way to improve the group's relations with residents on Sado Island, which helped facilitate festivals such as the annual Earth Celebration Festival, which brings together musicians from around the world not only for performance purposes but also to exchange cultural ideas and crafts between Sado Island and the rest of the world.
Kodo received the MIDEM Music Video (Long Form) Award at the 3rd International Visual Music Festival in Cannes in 1994, as well as the Japanese Foreign Ministry Award noting their cultural contributions through the Earth Celebration event on Sado Island. They were also the recipient of the Matsuo Performing Arts Award for Japanese Music in 2012.
There are currently 48 members of Kodo, including 24 performing members (17 men, 7 women) and 24 staff members. The performers range in age from 22 to 58 years old. Apprentices and part-time workers included, the total number of people who are part of the Kodo extended family rises to about seventy people.
Apprentices who hope to be players (there are also apprentices who hope to become staff members) spend two years living together communally in what was once an abandoned schoolhouse. After this period, apprentices who have been selected to become junior members spend one more year training and practicing in the hope that at the end of the year they will be chosen to become part of the Kodo organization.
In the past, the group lived communally as a whole. This is still true of the younger members who live together in the Kodo village, but senior members now live outside the village in nearby communities.
As of December 2013, Kodo has 29 performing members:
As of December 2013:
|1985||Heartbeat Drummers of Japan|
|1989||Blessing of the Earth|
|1990||Irodori||彩||Gold Disc Award for Japanese classical music|
|1993||Best of Kodo|
|1994||Nasca Fantasy||ナスカ幻想||with Isao Tomita|
|1995||The Hunted||ハンテッド||Original Motion Picture soundtrack|
|1995||Kodo Live at the Acropolis||鼓童~アクロポリス・ライブ~|
|1999||Sai-Sō: The Remix Project||再創|
|2000||Tataku: The Best of Kodo II (1994–1999)|
|2002||FIFA 2002 World Cup Official Anthem|
|2004||Sadoe – One Earth Tour Special||佐渡へ~鼓童ワン・アース・ツアー スペシャル~|
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