The best Japanese Taiko drumming group, KODO, is coming to Manchester!!

Have you ever heard of a Taiko? It is a traditional Japanese drum. Japanese Taiko drumming is increasingly popular in the UK, and not only a few Japanese Taiko drumming groups have visited here, but also there are many local groups led by British people.

Kodo is arguably at the top of the pyramid of Taiko groups. You can find a lot about them by following this link: About Kodo

As a Japanese, I have heard a lot about Kodo, and watched many times on TV. Being a female, I have to admit that I was rather attracted to the powerful performance by the muscular and half-naked male members of Kodo. But somehow, I had never managed to see their performance on stage.

Then, in 2012, one of the most famous Kabuki actors in Japan, Tamasaburo Bando, became their Artistic Director. What?! I have been a huge fan of him for a long time. So there was no more time to waste; I booked a ticket for their stage performance, “Amaterasu,” in which Tamasaburo appears as a Goddess of sun, Amaterasu. At the concert, I was in the first row, and I watched their entire performance without blinking! (Sorry, slight exaggeration here.) That was in December in 2013.

Smile! in front of the Kodo's poster

People wait in front of the Minami Theater in Kyoto for the Amaterasu concert on the closing night. The poster behind them shows Tamasaburo in Amaterasu's costume.

And now, Kodo is coming to Manchester, as a part of their “One Earth Tour 2014: Legend” European Tour!! It sounds too good to be true, but it is true! You don’t need to go to Japan to watch them, but you can see them right here in Manchester! They started from Italy, and most of the concerts were sold out. So, hurry! Get your ticket right now before it’s too late! I will see you at the Bridgewater Hall.

The UK Tour Schedule:
15 Feb – Lighthouse, Poole
17 Feb – Symphony Hall, Birmingham
19 Feb – Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
20 Feb – Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
25 Feb – Sage Gateshead, Gateshead
28 Feb – Dome, Brighton

For more information and to book a ticket, please click here:
One Earth Tour Schedule

Famous Japanese Koto Player Entertains Braid Conference!

On Sunday, August 19th, a young Japanese Koto player, Fuyuki Enokido, performed a concert after the key note speach on the opening day at the 2nd Braid Conference, held in Manchester Metropolitan University.

After her performance, she invited everybody in the audience to pose for a group photo with her. She was very friendly and encouraged people to try her koto and to ask her questions after the photo.

If you missed purchasing her CD then, please leave me a comment, as Fuyuki passed on the rest of her CDs to me.

Regarding the live performance I announced on the day, it turned out that her performance will be broadcast in the program called World Routes on BBC3 radio on September 9th from 10pm. (So it’s not a live performance, but a recorded one.)

(Please click the photo to enlarge.)
To be continued….
Coming soon! Fuyuki’s interview will be posted in October.

Taiko Drumming Group in Manchester

Do you know what a “taiko” is? It`s a traditional Japanese drum. Japanese originally played it at Omatsuri, traditional Japanese festivals, as an offering to God, to entertain him. Nowadays, there are many taiko groups who perform at many other occasions. Have you heard of “Kodo”? They are probably the most popular and well-known among those groups. They have visited Manchester more than once, and played at Bridgewater Hall.

Now, until relatively recently, you needed to go to London to find a decent enough Taiko group, either Japanese or British. But, I have found this taiko group, Tantara Taiko, right here in Greater Manchester. The leader of the group, John Bolwell, went to Japan to learn how to play the taiko, and he formed his own group when he got back to Manchester.

As a Japanese, I think they are quite good, and they are still developing. They have performed at some major Japanese culture-related events. So, this time, I decided to visit their practice session to find out just how they do it.

I was surprised to find out that they are already so experienced that all they needed to do was a little discussion about the timing and so on. They also have a beginner group, for which John would start from the very basic.

Anyway, please watch the video to see for yourself. Any comments welcome!

Tsugaru Shamisen player in Manchester

What is Shamisen? It is a banjo-like, traditional Japanese music instrument. It is very rare for Japanese to play Shamisen either as a hobby or professionally nowadays. I never saw or knew anyone who played Shamisen when I was living in Japan some years ago. It is something you might see on TV sometimes, or if you go to see Kabuki (traditional Japanese theater), you will see a group of Shamisen players on the stage, instead of an orchestra. 

Then I met this Shamisen player, Liam Morgan, in Manchester. When he first told me that his hobby was to play the Shamisen, I couldn’t believe my ears. And he plays well! It was a funny feeling to watch him play Tsugaru shamisen in front of me, here in Manchester, when I never watched anyone playing back in Japan (except for on TV).  

The type of Shamisen music he plays is called Tsugaru Shamisen. It is hard to explain, but once you’ve heard it, it is easy to recognize. It’s very powerful and masculine, contrasting with the type of shamisen music Geisha play. 

Just listening to his playing was impressive enough, but all the other stories he told me were even more impressive. He found a shamisen with a broken skin on eBay, purchased it and fixed it on his own! He learned how to do it by reading books and watching videos. He also learned how to play the shamisen by ear. And to an ordinary Japanese, his performance seems to reach to a high standard. 

Listening to his shamisen made me wish I had learned more about Japanese traditional culture while I was in Japan. In Japan, the most popular things to learn are such things as piano and ballet. I was also very impressed by his tireless effort to make his performance better. He keeps improving the sound of his shamisen by trying out new skins or new ways to skin, and he spends many hours practicing playing. His attitude was an eye-opener. I’m so glad he agreed to play for my blog.

If you would like Liam to play at your event, you can contact him at vegito_@hotmail.com