By Alison Baumgartner
Known the world over for being the ambassadors of Japanese culture, the world’s premier traditional Japanese taiko drum performers, Kodo, comes to The Lincoln Center on February 17.
Taiko drums have had a long history in Japan. They are used for theatre, music, religious ceremonies and festivals. In the 16th century, they were even used to communicate orders to armies during the Warring States period.
Kodo, however, is focused not just on the past of taiko, but its future. With limitless rhythmic possibilities, Kodo uses taiko to transform many different Japanese cultural artforms while still being respectful of their roots. “This dual goal that Kodo upholds of preserving tradition and continually evolving is what we strive to be every day,” says Misturu Ishizuka, the most senior member of Kodo.
For Ishizuka, Kodo’s newest show, Evolution, will conjure the image of the traditional and the new spinning together until they create something unknown. What will come of this is a new sound that has never been heard before, yet will still be distinctly taiko.
Even their signature pieces, such as “Odaiko” and “Monochrome” will be getting new interpretations. Though the traditional Japanese instruments are there, they have incorporated Western instruments to create what Ishizuka calls a “more colorful” and “rich musical expression.”
What makes Kodo the best in the world is not only their desire to evolve but also the drive and determination of their performers to deliver the best performance.
When accepted as an apprentice, they move to Sado Island in Japan and live communally in the mountains with veteran performers. There, they practice not only taiko drumming, dance, and flute, but other traditional Japanese art forms like noh (theatre), kyogen (comic theatre), sadou (tea ceremony), Ryukyu (Okinawan) dance, Minyo (folk singing), and the koto harp. They also train their physical fitness every day, as well as manage daily routines like farming, cleaning, and cooking.
On top of that, they cannot drink, smoke, or access the internet during their apprenticeship.
“After the two-year apprenticeship,” Ishizuka says, “a few get selected to advance as a Junior member to perform on stage with the Kodo members for one year, making it at least three years to fully become a performing member for Kodo.”
Is it any wonder that Kodo has been one of the most dynamic performances, and must-see shows since their inception in 1981?
“The thing I love the most about a taiko performance is the raw, pure energy it produces,” says junior member, Taiyo Onoda. “It gives everyone, people watching and performing, energy to plow through life.”
Kodo’s new show, Evolution, will embody that “raw, pure energy” that fans of the art form and the group expect, but the experience will be different.
Don’t miss the world’s most celebrated masters of taiko when they come to Fort Collins February 17, 2019! There are only a handful of tickets left, so get your seats before they are gone! Tickets from $15 at LCtix.com.