Kodo Arts Sphere America
In ancient Japan, the taiko (a traditional Japanese drum) was a symbol of community, used not only to keep a backbeat for local festivals and ceremonies, but also as a basic means of communication. The taiko could be used to call a meeting, to warn of danger, or to gather people in times of celebration.
Although indigenous to Japan, the taiko has taken on a life of its own in North America, and its role as a centerpiece for community continues. Since the early 1970’s, Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians have been using the taiko as a voice for their community and an expression of their cultural identity. Today North America is enjoying a veritable “taiko boom,” with thousands of players spanning all age groups and ethnic backgrounds involved in the taiko experience. The number of community-based taiko groups in North America is estimated to be over 150, and that number is growing. Kodo Arts Sphere America (KASA) was established to encourage, enable, and support programs and opportunities for North Americans to study and understand the traditional and contemporary Japanese music of the taiko and its related performing arts.
KASA received grants from ACTA’s Living Cultures Grants Program in 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2006.
In 2012 and 2011, funding supported the KASA Workshop and Concert tour featuring members of Japan’s famous taiko company Kodo. “Although indigenous to Japan, the taiko has taken on a life of its own in North America and its role as a centerpiece for community continues. Since the early seventies, Japanese Americans have been using the taiko as a voice for their community and expression of their cultural identity,” explains project director Donna Ebata.
In 2010, KASA presented Kodo’s master artists Chieko Kojima, Mitsue Kinjo, and Yoko Fujimoto in workshops and performances in San Jose, Sebastopol, and Los Angeles. The project also includes a concert at Senshin Buddhist Temple in celebration of Shenshin’s 40+ years of serving the Japanese American Community and preserving the rich cultural history of Japanese folk arts.
In 2009, KASA presented Yoko Fujimoto and Yoshikazu Fujimoto in workshops and performances in San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Both artists, who are members of Kodo, offered workshops in taiko basics as well as in folk dance and folk songs with an emphasis on lullabies.
In 2008, a grant to KASA supported the presentation of Hanayui, a three-member, all-female Japanese song and dance group made up of members of Kodo. Workshops and performances in traditional folk dance, song, and taiko took place in Alameda and Los Angeles as part of Hanayui’s first visit to the United States since 1999.
In 2006, KASA received support to present members of the world-renowned taiko group Kodo in workshops for the taiko communities of southern California. Workshops were held at Senshin Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles, for 200 participants of all ages and playing abilities.
As a participant in ACTA’s Traditional Arts Development Program in 2007, members of KASA traveled to attend and participate as workshop discussion leaders at the North American Taiko Conference in Seattle, Washington.
As a participant in ACTA’s Traditional Arts Development Program in 2005, KASA hosted Kodo’s master odaiko (large drum) player Yoshikazu Fujimoto for a series of workshops in northern California. Mr. Fujimoto instructed over one hundred different taiko performers, conducting workshops at Stanford, and in Emeryville, Sacramento, and San Jose.