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Kodō (taiko group)

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Background information
OriginSado Island, Japan
Years active1981–present (1981–present)
LabelsRed Ink
A taiko drum used by Kodo

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.[1] They regularly tour Japan, Europe, and the United States. In Japanese the word "Kodō" 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 taiko are the primary instrument in their performances, other traditional Japanese musical instruments such as fue and shamisen make an appearance on stage as do traditional dance and vocal performance. Kodō's repertoire includes pieces based on the traditional rhythms of regional Japan, pieces composed for Kodō by contemporary songwriters, and pieces written by Kodō members themselves. Since their debut at the Berlin Festival in 1981, Kodō has had almost 4,000 performances,[2] spending about a third of the year overseas, a third touring in Japan and a third resting and preparing new material on Sado Island.[3]



Kodō was formed in 1981 and made their debut at the Berliner Philharmonie in the same year.[4][5] Kodō is sometimes considered to be simply renamed from the taiko group Ondekoza organized in 1971.[6][7][8] Indeed, Kodō 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,[9] and required the group to choose a new name. Hayashi, who departed from the group soon after its founding to begin a solo career,[10] suggested the name "Kodō".[11] 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.[12]

The group spent the next 7 years touring Europe, Japan, North and South Americas and the Far East. Following this, they founded Kodō 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 Kodō Cultural Foundation.

Kodō had three sold out performances at the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival in Los Angeles,[13] a 10-week event which preceded the 1984 Summer Olympics.[14]

In 1989, the group held its first drum workshop, referred to as Kodō Juku[15] 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.[16]

The non-profit Kodō Cultural Foundation was established in 1997, and three years later, they founded the Kodō Arts Sphere America organization in North America. This organization started to present workshop tours in 2003.


A 2007 performance of the piece Yatai-bayashi during the ending of the piece. The three performers in front playing chu-daiko are wearing fundoshi.

Kodō is arguably the most well-known and respected taiko group worldwide and has been considered an ambassador group for taiko performance outside Japan.[5][17] One component of their reputation stems from their training regimen, which at one time, included long distance running twice daily. A report on Kodō'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.[8]

In performance, players are often seen wearing a sole loincloth called a 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.[18] Others have noted that the use of fundoshi clearly represents a masculine component to the Kodō'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."[19]

Associated organizations


There are three organizations that handle Kodō's activities. Kitamaesen is the corporate that manages member salaries, employment, tour booking, and is a general managing entity.[20] Otodaiku manages group copyrights, the development and sale of musical instruments used in Kodō's performance, and the group's recordings.[21] 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.[22]

Kodō Village


Kodō Village is a collection of buildings intended for Kodō's management and tour staff, and represents their headquarters. The Village is situated in Ogi on the southern part of Sado Island.[23] 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.[24]

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.[24] However, after the project was initiated by Toshio Kawauchi, its purpose shifted toward integrating Kodō's presence more permanently on Sado Island.[24] Prior to Kodō Village, the group rented out an abandoned schoolhouse as its Apprentice Center.[25] 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.[24]



Kodō 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.[26] They were also the recipient of the Matsuo Performing Arts Award for Japanese Music in 2012.[27]



As of May 2014, there are 32 performing members (26 men, six women) in Kodō and 28 staff members involved in Kitamaesen and Otodaiku. The Kodō Cultural Foundation maintains a staff of 12. Apprentices and part-time workers included, there are about 100 persons involved in Kodō or its related organizations.

Apprentices who hope to be performers spend two years living and training together communally in a converted school on Sado Island. After this period, apprentices who have been selected to become junior, probationary members spend one more year training and practicing in which they may be selected to become full members of Kodō.

Originally, Kodō members lived separately from the Sado Island community. This is still true of the younger members, who live together in the Kodō village, but senior members now live outside the village in nearby communities.

Performing members


As of May 2014:[28]

Tomohiro Mitome
Yuichiro Funabashi
Yoshikazu Fujimoto
Chieko Kojima
Yoko Fujimoto
Motofumi Yamaguchi
Eiichi Saito
Masaru Tsuji
Mitsuru Ishizuka
Yosuke Oda
Kenzo Abe
Masayuki Sakamoto
Kenta Nakagome
Tsuyoshi Maeda
Eri Uchida
Mariko Omi
Yosuke Kusa
Rai Tateishi
Maya Minowa
Shogo Komatsuzaki
Akiko Ando
Yosuke Inoue
Yuta Sumiyoshi
Tetsumi Hanaoka
Kosuke Urushikubo
Jun Jidai
Koki Miura
Ryosuke Inada
Naoya Iwai
Shunichiro Kamiya
Ryoma Tsurumi
Kengo Watanabe



As of December 2013:[29]

Takao Aoki (Kodō Managing Director)
Makoto Shimazaki (Kodō Cultural Foundation President)
Kazuyuki Sato (Otodaiku Managing Director)
Yasuko Honma
Taro Nishita
Kazuyuki Sato
Jun Akimoto
Yoshie Abe
Kazuko Arai
Takeshi Arai
Kazuki Imagai
Erika Ueda
Yoshiaki Oi
Masafumi Kazama
Minako Goto
Miwa Saito
Yuko Shingai
Junko Susaki
Tatsuya Dobashi
Satoshi Nakano
Nobuyuki Nishimura
Toshiaki Negishi
Mitsunaga Matsuura
Narumi Matsuda
Kazuko Arai


Cover of the Sado e - One Earth Tour Special CD
Date English Japanese Notes
1982 Kodō-1 Release KODO-001 on own label.
1982 Kodō Live In California Release KODO-002 on own label. Cassette only.
1985 Heartbeat Drummers of Japan
1986 Kodō Vs Yosuke Yamashita - In Live
1988 Ubu-Suna 産土 (うぶすな)
1989 Blessing of the Earth
1990 Irodori Gold Disc Award for Japanese classical music
1991 Gathering
1991 Mono-Prism モノプリズム
1992 Kaikii 回帰
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[30] 鼓童~アクロポリス・ライブ~
1996 Ibuki いぶき
1998 Against
1999 Sai-Sō: The Remix Project 再創
1999 Ibuki Remix 再創~“いぶき”・リミックス・アルバム
1999 Warabe
1999 tsutsumi
2000 Tataku: The Best of Kodo II (1994–1999)
2001 Mondo Head モンド・ヘッド
2002 FIFA 2002 World Cup Official Anthem
2003 Hero soundtrack
2004 Sadoe – One Earth Tour Special 佐渡へ~鼓童ワン・アース・ツアー スペシャル~
2005 prism rhythm
2011 Akatsuki
2014 Mystery 神秘
2021 Kodo Together[31]

See also



  1. ^ "Kodo - Artist Profile". eventseeker.com. Retrieved 2020-03-17.
  2. ^ Hadley, Simon (10 January 2014). "Drum ensemble head to Birmingham". Coventry Telegraph. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  3. ^ Camilla Gennari Feslikenian, Taiko: il ritmo del Giappone – the rhythm of Japan, Milano, Italia Press Edizioni, 2008, ISBN 978-88-89761-23-6
  4. ^ Henry Mabley Johnson; Jerry C. Jaffe (2008). Performing Japan: Contemporary Expressions of Cultural Identity. Global Oriental. p. 37. ISBN 978-1905246311.
  5. ^ a b Jeff Yang; Dina Gan; Terry Hong (1997). Eastern standard time: a guide to Asian influence on American culture from Astro boy to Zen Buddhism. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 039576341X.
  6. ^ Bronner, Simon J., ed. (2005). Manly traditions: the folk roots of American masculinities. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. p. 144. ISBN 0253217814.
  7. ^ Paulene, Thomas (1999). Gerry Bloustein (ed.). Musical visions : selected conference proceedings from 6th National Australian/New Zealand IASPM and Inaugural Arnhem Land Performance Conference, Adelaide, Australia, June 1998. Kent Town, S. Aust.: Wakefield Press. ISBN 1862545006.
  8. ^ a b Tagashira, Gail (3 February 1989). "Local Groups Share Taiko Drum Heritage". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 12 April 2014.
  9. ^ Bronner 2005, p. 154.
  10. ^ "Eitetsu Hayashi". Musical America. 11. Front Cover ABC Consumer Magazines: 32. 1991.
  11. ^ Bender, Shawn (2012). Taiko boom Japanese drumming in place and motion. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 98, 103–104. ISBN 978-0520951433.
  12. ^ Bender 2012, p. 97.
  13. ^ Bronner 2005, p. 151.
  14. ^ Fitzpatrick, Robert. "The Olympic Arts Festival" (PDF). Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  15. ^ "Workshop Catalogue". Kodō. Archived from the original on 14 May 2017. Retrieved 12 April 2014.
  16. ^ Kodo - One Earth Tour 2003 (PDF). New York: Carnegie Hall. March 2003. p. 42. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-04-13. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
  17. ^ Japan Spotlight: Economy, Culture & History. Japan: Japan Economic Foundation. 2006. p. 52.
  18. ^ "Kodo Costume" (PDF). Kodo eNews. Kitamaesen. December 2010. p. 4. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  19. ^ Swed, Mark (28 June 1984). "Kodo: The Rockettes of Japanese Folk Music". Los Angeles Herald.
  20. ^ Bender 2012, p. 99.
  21. ^ Bender 2012, p. 103.
  22. ^ Bender 2012, p. 200.
  23. ^ "Kodo Village". KODO. Archived from the original on 10 March 2018. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  24. ^ a b c d Bender 2012, p. 101.
  25. ^ Bender 2012, p. 16.
  26. ^ "KODO HISTORY". Sony Music. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  27. ^ "松尾芸能賞". Matsuo Entertainment Development Foundation. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  28. ^ "Members of Kodo, Taiko Performing Arts Ensemble". Kodō. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  29. ^ "Kitamaesen Co., Ltd., Otodaiku Co., Ltd. Staff Members". Kodō. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  30. ^ Bambarger, Bradley (5 April 1997). "Japan's Kodo Drums Up Global Auidence". Billboard. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  31. ^ "Japanese drumming collective Kodo collaborate with Kevin Saunderson, Elkka, Equiknoxx on new LP". The Vinyl Factory. 2021-05-26. Retrieved 2021-07-27.