Exploring the limitless possibilities of the traditional Japanese drum, the taiko, Kodo is forging new directions for a vibrant living art-form. In Japanese the word “Kodo” conveys two meanings: Firstly, “heartbeat,” the primal source of all rhythm. The sound of the great taiko is said to resemble a mother’s heartbeat as felt in the womb, and it is no myth that babies are often lulled asleep by its thunderous vibrations. Secondly, read in a diﬀerent way, the word can mean “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 debut at the Berlin Festival in 1981, Kodo has given over 3700 performances on all ﬁve continents, spending about a third of the year overseas, a third touring in Japan and a third rehearsing and preparing new material on Sado Island.|
In 1971, a handful of young men and women gathered on Sado Island to establish Sado no Kuni Ondekoza, a group that provided Japanese youth a way to learn traditional Japanese performing arts and craft. In order to support the group ﬁnancially, the original Ondekoza members began to study and perform taiko, eventually taking the sound of the drum around the globe on world tours. Members lived communally in an abandoned elementary school and spent much of their time practicing the taiko and training to run marathons. After debuting internationally in 1975, Ondekoza emerged as a professional performance group that became highly acclaimed among European and North American audiences.
As time went by, many of the members began to feel that the philosophy and goals of Ondekoza leader Tagayasu Den no longer reﬂected those of the group. Eventually Mr. Den left Sado, taking the name Ondekoza with him. The members who remained on Sado reorganized and founded Kodo in 1981. Although performances became the primary focus of Kodo’s activities, the initial dream to establish a centre to study Japanese traditional performing arts and crafts has never been forgotten. The ﬁrst leader of Kodo, Toshio Kawauchi, envisioned “Kodo Village,” a creative space where Kodo members could explore new possibilities and interact with artists from around the world. In 1984, the One Earth Tour became the ongoing banner for Kodo’s mission of bringing the sound of the taiko to the ears of the
world, and in 1988 the dream of Kodo Village became a reality.
As the number of concerts increased, both domestic and international performances received the highest acclaim. More members with a background in music joined the group, and events such as “Earth Celebration” enabled more exchange with other cultures and musical genres. As taiko culture spreads internationally, Kodo emerged as an authority in the ﬁeld and solidiﬁed its identity as a musical performance group. In 1997, the Kodo Cultural Foundation was established to facilitate more educational and outreach programs.
Kodo in the New Millennium
Looking for new ways to explore the profound subtleties of taiko, Kodo begins to explore richer levels of stage expression. The Kodo Cultural Foundation supports both local and international activities through social-education and outreach projects designed to give back to local communities. In 2011, Kodo celebrated its milestone 30th anniversary with a special commemorative tour throughout Japan, North America and Europe. In 2012, Kodo invited Kabuki luminary Tamasaburo Bando to become its artistic director.
Tamasaburo Bando, Artistic Director
Tamasaburo Bando is a leading Kabuki actor, and the most popular and celebrated onnagata (actor specializing in female roles) currently on stage. He has demonstrated his profound aesthetic across numerous platforms, receiving the highest acclaim for his many artistic endeavors. His artistic direction of productions such as “Romeo & Juliet” and “Kaijin Besso” garnered numerous accolades, while as a movie director he shined in ﬁlms such as “Gekashitsu,” “Yume no Onna,” and “Tenshu Monogatari,” which caused a splash in the arts world. In April 2012, Bando assumed the position of Kodo’s artistic director. In September 2012, he was recognized as an Important Intangible Cultural Property Holder (“Living National Treasure”) and in 2013 he was decorated with the highest honor of France’s Order of Arts and Letters, Commander.