Exploring the limitless possibilities of the traditional Japanese taiko drum, Kodo is forging new directions for a vibrant living art form. In Japanese, the word “Kodo” conveys two meanings: “heartbeat,” the primal source of all rhythm, and “children of the drum,” a reflection of Kodo’s desire to play the drums simply, with the heart of a child.
Since the group’s 1981 debut, Kodo has given more than 3,700 performances across five continents. Its origins stretch back a decade before that to a gathering of young men and women on Sado Island, where they began to teach traditional Japanese performing arts and crafts to youth. To support their efforts, they began to study and perform taiko drumming. When this original group split in 1981, the members who remained on Sado formed Kodo. They eventually formed Kodo Village on the island to further their mission of teaching traditional arts and crafts, and in 1997, the Kodo Cultural Foundation was established to facilitate more educational and outreach programs.
There are three principal elements that make up a Kodo performance. The first is based upon traditional Japanese folk arts, which they reinterpret and rearrange for the stage, striving to capture their universal spirit and energy as they filter through the performers’ bodies. The second element is made up of compositions by Kodo’s friends and mentors, including composers Maki Ishii and Shinichiro Ikebe, Kabuki musicians Roetsu Tosha and Kiyohiko Semba, and jazz pianist Yosuke Yamashita. The third element consists of original works composed by Kodo members who have leveraged their exposure to the rhythms and sounds of the many people and places they have visited as inspiration for their own creations. Building a Kodo performance program begins with blending these three elements together amidst the sights and sounds of Sado Island.