DUBAI: Kodo is a famous Japanese taiko drums troupe that has been doing taiko drumming performances around the world for over 40 years. In Japanese the word “Kodo” conveys two meanings: “heartbeat” the primal source of all rhythm and, if 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. Kodo’s repertoire includes pieces based on the traditional rhythms of regional Japan, pieces composed for Kodo by contemporary songwriters, and pieces written by the members themselves.
Since their debut at the Berlin Festival in 1981, Kodo has had almost 4,000 performances including their performance in “Hekayat: Symphonic Tales,” which was produced by famous Emirati composer Ihab Darwish that was released in March 2021.
Speaking exclusively to Arab News Japan, Yuki Hirata, a member of Kodo shared the story of how the Japanese taiko drums troupe was established.
“Kodo debuted in Berlin in 1981, and last year, we celebrated the ensemble’s 40th anniversary. Over the past four decades, Kodo has given over 6,500 performances in 52 countries on five continents. This figure includes 4,000 performances under the “One Earth” banner, a theme that embodies the troupe’s desires to transcend language and cultural boundaries, all while reminding our audience of the common bonds we all share as human beings,” Hirata said.
“Since the very beginning, Sado Island has been our home and the platform from which we reach out to the world. With nature’s warm embrace evident in each of her four seasons, Sado is an extraordinary place where traditional ways of life and the island’s inherent performing arts still thrive today. This island is the fountain of our inspiration and the guiding force behind our creative lifestyle. Our goal is to find a harmonious balance between people and the natural world,” he added.
The Japanese troupe participated in “Hekayat: Symphonic Tales” performance, which featured different music styles from around the world including Japanese music and was produced by Emirati composer Ihab Darwish.
Hirata said Darwish reached out to Kodo directly and asked them to participate in the special project for the Abu Dhabi festival. “Though we could not join him in person this time due to the pandemic, we were so happy that we were able to create something together online,” he explained.
“We would love to perform in Abu Dhabi one day, as we have always wanted to share our music with people in the Arabian Peninsula. We hope we can visit the UAE someday soon,” he added.
Darwish said that Arabic music inspired him because it is so ‘rhythmical.’ Since working with Darwish, Hirata said he wanted to study Arabic culture and music more.
Hirata said Kodo’s challenges were mostly incorporating Japanese elements into other works. “For me, the greatest challenge was incorporating elements that are unique to Kodo and quintessentially Japanese into the work, whilst respecting Ihab’s ideas and nuances,” he added.
“For instance, in the 5th performance, ‘Ya Bahr,’ I used rhythms and techniques from ‘Yatai-bayashi,’ which is taiko music played at a traditional Japanese festival. In ‘Galactic Hope,’ the 10th performance, I incorporated sounds that conjured the image of strong Japanese fishermen as they sail through rough seas,” he told Arab News Japan.