In an exciting collaboration, TaikOz, Australia’s premier taiko ensemble, joins Kodo, one of Japan’s best known drumming ensemble for a national Australian concert tour, featuring Grand Master shakuhachi player Riley Lee.
‘Taiko’ is the generic name given to a Japanese drum which has evolved into a spectrum of percussion instruments. TaikOz is Australia’s premier taiko ensemble. Established in 1997, TaikOz is guided by three principles: the creation of new taiko music by Australian and international composers, the study and performance of drum and flute music from Japan, and the interpretation of music of contemporary Japanese composers.
Over the past few years, TaikOz has nurtured a creative partnership with Kodo which based on Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture. Kodo’s aim is to keep Japanese folk arts alive with contemporary expression. Kodo, has given over 3500 performances on all five continents since their inception in 1981. Through collaborations with musicians, dancers, singers and actors around the world, they constantly seek to explore new expressions for the taiko, preserving yet re-inventing traditional Japanese performing arts.
In the performance, 16 Taiko players will take to the stage with a singer. Kodo and TaikOz will present their own pieces culminating in a grand finale in which both groups come together in thunderous celebration with two pieces played back to back. The collaboration between Kodo and TaikOz goes back some years. Eiichi Saito is a veteran performer who will direct on the Australia tour. Saito recalls that in 2009 five performers from Kodo played with TaikOz. “But this time” he says, “it will be double the cast. Taiko is revered as something beyond music, something with the power to bring people together and even unite people with the Gods. I think the audience will understand that when each person present experiences the taiko with their whole body, the performers and the entire audience become one”. He adds “If culture does not keep moving along with the times, it falls into decline. Kodo continues to evolve thanks to stimulation from artists around the world.”
Artistic Director of TaikOz, Ian Cleworth says: “We are so looking forward to performing again with Kodo. This concert marks a special return for Riley Lee because he will perform with musicians from an ensemble of which he was a member nearly 40 years ago. It will be a historical moment.” Grand Master shakuhachi player Riley Lee was an original member in the 1970s, of Sado no Kuni Ondekoza, the precursor to Kodo.
The Japanese word “Kodo” is said to have 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.
TaikOz aims not just to adopt the aesthetics of Japanese drumming, but to create a new genre. “Our aim is not to simply transplant one culture’s music into another’s, but to allow a new form of music to grow upon a sure foundation of understanding”. Their body of work has been created from traditional Japanese music, symphonic music, jazz and pop, and works from esteemed colleagues and teachers in Japan such as Eitetsu Hayashi, Fuun no Kai, past members of Sado no Kuna Ondekoza, and composer friends and artists, Meryl Tankard, Regis Lansac, Gerard Brophy, John Bell, Michael Askill, Timothy Constable, Graham Koehne and Andrea Molino. Performance collaborators have included the Synergy, didgeridoo virtuosi Matthew Doyle and William Barton, theatre director John Bell and The Bell Shakespeare Company, and the Sydney, Melbourne, West Australian and Queensland Symphony Orchestras.
Ian Cleworth’s Of The Fields, which features fast, fleet stick work of five katsugi (slung drum) okedo players,
Flowing Like A Ripple… – a vibrant, driving work for three solo drummers, two taiko set players and the ôdaiko (big drum), and
Passing Through Tears Of Nectar – a piece composed by Riley Lee featuring the mellifluous tones of his bamboo shakuhachi, accompanied by percussion and Buddhist chant and a section of vivid and complex interplay for the taiko. This number will also include the soaring vocals of Kodo’s Yoko Fujimoto.
Pieces played by Kodo:
Tomoe – a dynamic trio for three young male drummers on three large taiko that involves movement and drumming;
Stride – the fast, groove-laden
PPC a fun-filled, comedic piece, and large-scale pieces,
Miyake and Zoku.
Kodo soloists, vocalist Yoko Fujimoto and dancer/drummer Chieko Kojima, will present feature items – Itokishi mono-e, which includes the traditional zither-like koto, and Hana Hachijo, a beguiling mix of dancing and drumming.
TICKETS: , $50 – $85 (school groups) $20
Book at: www.cityrecitalhall.com