Tag Archives: taiko

Earth Celebration: Feel the Drum Beats Rise through Your Feet

The Earth Celebration

From August 16th to 18th, the lush island of Sado in Japan is filled with the sounds of taiko drums, song and dance. The Earth Celebration is Japan’s longest running music festival, a yearly event which attracts music lovers from all across Japan and the world.

Hosted by the globetrotting taiko drum group Kodo, for 32 years this huge drum festival has brought festival lovers to butterfly-shaped Sado Island, just an hour or so by ferry from Niigata City in northern Japan.

For Kodo members, taiko is a way of life. The drummers spend two thirds of the year touring, performing in packed concerts both in Japan and overseas. The rest of the time the troupe lives on Sado, practicing and developing new works that show just how powerful these deceptively simple looking drums can be. Their dedication to their craft comes through in each performance, coaxing nuances from massive drums that sometimes reach over one meter in diameter.

The Earth Celebration

However, Earth Celebration goes beyond taiko, as each year the group invites musicians from around the world to perform at the Harbour Market stage, bringing together artists of all stripes through the power of music. For the 2019 edition the Kodo drummers will be collaborating with the acclaimed Korean percussion ensemble Kim Duk-Soo SamulNori.

Besides music, visitors can also enjoy light up events at the former Sado Gold Mine, watch movies at the outdoor Hello Japan Sea Cinema, sample tasty food at Harbour Market, and catch fringe events at Kisaki Shrine.

If you plan to check out this music festival, try to arrive one day early to catch a firelight performance of Noh theater on one of the island’s ancient open-air stages. The plays harken back to the Japan of yore, the performer’s carved masks and otherworldly chants made even more dramatic by the flickering lanterns.

Kids are welcome at most of the events, and there are plenty of workshops and other activities to do on Sado to teach and entertain young music lovers.

Heading to Japan and want to know more about how to get to Sado and book tickets for Earth Celebration? The festival website has all the information you need to plan your trip!

headline photo: Kodo

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Artist Profiles: Gocoo

Gocoo

Gocoo is an 11-person (7 women, 4 men) drumming group that captures the audience with original grooves woven with Japanese drums, taikos. The group was formed in 1997 and debuted at a big techno music festival, “Rainbow 2000”, the same year. Over 30 taikos, including ones made by one of the group’s members, Taro Matsuzaki, bring life to Gocoo world.

While many Taiko groups stoically pursue a traditional style, and while others seek new interpretations of traditional Japanese music by taking in elements of Western music, Gocoo’s beat exhibits free-spirited, innovative taiko music that appeals directly to any audience. The group not only incites enthusiasts of primal, spectacular drumming shows. With its complex poly-rhythmic beats and an impressive light-show, Gocoo creates a show that fascinates a wide range of audiences.

Gocoo’s regular live gigs at popular venues in Tokyo and all over Japan, such as Aoyama CAY and Shibuya On Air, are packed with young followers who tend to shy away from traditional music. For them, Gocoo’s trance-like, danceable sound is simply outstanding pop-music. Gocoo enjoys appearing at popular Japanese outdoor festivals and rave parties like Asagiri Jam, Equinox, Earth Dance, and Hotaka Festival along with various rock bands and DJs.

Gocoo’s first album Healing Asia Vol. 2 featuring Gocoo, released under Consipio Records in January 2000, was sound engineered by Shinichi Tanaka and recorded with no over-dubbing. The result was a CD filled with delicate layers of drums and the powerful grooves so quintessential of Gocoo’s live performance. The guest artist for the album, the didgeridoo virtuoso GoRo, has been joining in most of the live performances since then. The album Live 01 was released in June 2002 under Universal Music Records.

The year 2000 marked another milestone for Gocoo with its first US tour hosted by a Native American leader, Dennis Banks. San Francisco, Flagstaff, Sedona, Santa Fe – everywhere Gocoo performed, it was received by an enthusiastic audience. The tremendous spiritual energy Gocoo received through this experience is evident in the more dynamic and intense sound they’ve displayed since the tour.

Gocoo has performed with Kim Duk-soo of Samulnori, who perfected Korea’s neo-traditional percussion quartet music; Mamady Keita, the jembe player from West Africa; as well as Seiichi Tanaka of San Francisco Taiko Dojo, the recipient of the National Endowment of Arts award for his contribution to the U.S. society through Taiko-related works. In different words, all three have encouraged Gocoo to lead the way in creating new Taiko music.

Gocoo started off 2003 with its first appearance in Europe as the top music act at the opening party of ?Graz 2003 ? Cultural Capital of Europe?, followed by an incredibly successful tour through six major German cities in June/July. Also in 2003, the new Matrix movie as well as the accompanying soundtrack Matrix Reloaded include the tune ?Teahouse? by Juno Reactor featuring Gocoo. Later the same year Gocoo?s first DVD Live?02 was released followed by two new CDs: Amatsuchi no Aida and the new collaboration CD with Juno Reactor Zwara EP.

Gocoo

In spring 2004 Gocoo performed in Kazakh and then returned to Europe in July with it?s new CD Lovebeat and with an even bigger and more successful tour than the year before. The band performed in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands. An absolute highlight was the gig at the Gurtenfestival (Bern, Switzerland) in front of 15.000 people. The concert was also broadcast on Swiss television. Gocoo?s tour included a studio session in Hamburg, Germany. Here Gocoo contributed its sound to the soundtrack of the third sequel of one of the most popular role-playing computer games. The game will be released worldwide in 2005/2006.

Lead drummer, Kaoly Asano, attracts much attention as a newly emerging female Taiko player. When she is not performing with Gocoo, she leads Taiko lessons at her Tawoo Taiko Dojo where anyone can experience the joy of Taiko drumming.

Discography:

Healing Asia Vol.2 featuring Gocoo (Pony Canyon, 2000)
Migwitch Gitchi-Manidoo (2001)
Live 01 (2002)
LoveBeat! (2004)
Joy (2005)
MatsuRhythm vol.1 (2007)
Roots of Joy (2011)
Eleven (2013)

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Taiko Drumming: Collaboration and Good Spirit

Joji Hirota and The London Taiko Drummers – Japanese Taiko

Joji Hirota and The London Taiko Drummers – Japanese Taiko (Arc Music, 2017)

Japanese Taiko showcases UK-based Japanese composer and multi-instrumentalist Joji Hirota and his formidable group The London Taiko Drummers. The album is a real treat for fans of percussion and specifically Japanese drumming.

The music selection consists of 10 original contemporary taiko pieces by Hirota and two folk songs. Most of the album features spectacular instrumental multi-layered drumming performances, using various types of Japanese drums and gongs, except for two songs in which Hirota plays the shakuhachi flute and vocals are added.

The CD booklet provides abundant information about the musical pieces, Joji Hirota and also each member of the ensemble: Yoshinori Hayashi, Jorrel Dawoodi, Luke Harrison, Monti Sadler, Yasuna Higuma, Haruna Komatsu, Naomi Potter, Tokiko Minoda, Simona Lombardi, Mayumi Hirata and Eri Kaishima.

Buy Japanese Taiko

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Artist Profiles: Kenny Endo

Kenny Endo – Photo by Toyo Miyatake Studio

Kenny Endo was born on April 2, 1953 in Los Angeles, California. He’s a leading percussionist who has developed new techniques in the taiko style of drumming. He is one of the most versatile musicians in the taiko genre and crosses easily between the classical Japanese style and his own neo-classical globally-inspired style.

Originally trained as a jazz musician in the Asian American cultural renaissance of 1970s California he began his taiko career first with Los Angeles’ groundbreaking Kinnara Taiko and then with the renowned San Francisco Taiko Dojo the first kumi daiko group outside of Japan.

In 1980 he embarked on a decade-long odyssey in his ancestral Japan studying and performing with the masters of ancient classical drumming traditional Tokyo festival music and ensemble drumming. He has the honor of being the first non-Japanese national to have received a natori (stage name and masters degree) in hogaku hayashi (classical drumming); in the hogaku world he is known as Mochizuki Tajiro.

Endo has recorded several CDs of original taiko compositions and was a featured artist on the PBS special Spirit of Taiko. He opened for The Who performed a duet with singer Bobby McFerrin and was featured on the soundtracks for Kayo Hatta’s Picture Bride and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.

Kenny Endo – Photo by John Chisholm

He has appeared at the Smithsonian the Kennedy Center the Theatre de Champs-Elysee in Paris the Kabukiza and National Theater in Japan and traveled around the world with the Hong Kong Philharmonic the Honolulu Symphony and the Tokyo Symphony.

He has received commissions to create and tour new work from the American Composers Forum the Rockefeller Foundation (MAPP) and the Japan Foundation among others. Endo received an M.A. in Ethnomusicology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Discography

Eternal Energy (Bindu, 1994)
Hibiki (Bindu, 1998)
Jugoya (Bindu, 2000)
Essence (2001)
On The Way – Michi Yuki (2007)
Rhythm Summit
Honua (Earth)
Convergence, with Kaoru Watanabe (2016)
Uncommon Time: Taiko, Tabla, and Timbales (2016)

Videos:

The Spirit of Taiko (2006) DVD

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