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Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Life of a Kodo Apprentice

Ajara, Kodo. Photo: Takashi Okamoto
There’s much to love about Kodo: the ritualistic precision, the subterranean sounds, the tensed, muscular bodies poised with impossible control. But beneath the surface of those displays lies an entire lifestyle devoted to a holistic folk ethos of which drumming is an integral part. Before a performer can officially join the group (which comes to the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House tonight, March 19—Saturday, March 21), they must be vetted through an intensive, two-year-long apprenticeship on Sado Island. As touched on in our interview with former Kodo member Kaoru Watanabe, the daily routine of an apprentice involves drumming, dancing, singing, tea ceremony, woodworking, growing rice, and more...

Communal Living
Apprentices live together in a village on Sado Island, a secluded time capsule of preindustrial times located in the Japan Sea.

Temple buildings on Sado island. Photo: Tony McNicol

They begin their day at 5am with a brisk 10-kilometer jog to develop leg strength and endurance for

Growing Food
During the apprenticeship, much of the vegetables, rice, and other food are grown communally on the
premises, asserting a connection to place. The physical labor of the harvest is said to resonate  spiritually with the motion of drumming.

Apprentices take part in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies in order to perfect an economy of movement.

Color, Kodo. Photo: Takashi Okamoto

Eating and other activities are mostly done from the traditional, and sometimes painful, seiza sitting position, intended to reconnect Kodo members with the rituals of their ancestors.

Stick Making
Kodo members and apprentices make their own drumsticks and chopsticks and always hold the latter in the left hand to develop dexterity.

Kodo One Earth Tour: Mystery opens tonight in the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House and runs through Saturday, March 21.

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