Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Preface: this post will be in three parts.

I am so grateful to have autonomy of my research: the Bristol Fellowship coordinator at Hamilton College, Ginny Dosch, has given me a tremendous degree of flexibility in regards to my itinerary. With my original fellowship proposal, I had no idea that I would want to venture to Amsterdam for a series of concerts. Fortunately, I was able to fit this side trip into my schedule.

From March 14th-16th, Kodo, the taiko drum group I worked with while in Japan, played three concerts in Amsterdam with a Dutch pop rock group, called Bløf. (I think Jerry Seinfeld said it best, “What is that O with the line through it? What letter is that? I don’t remember that letter in school.”)

The shows were not just merely Kodo as the opening act for Bløf; instead, the two groups collaborated and performed many songs together, fusing traditional Japanese drumming with modern Dutch rock music. Needless to say, this fusion created a tremendous visual and auditory experience.
To take a step back: ever since I first ventured to India in the fall of 2005, I have been amazed by the concept of fusion music. I was initially turned on to fusion music by the godfather of the genre itself, George Harrison. Harrison’s records, both with the Beatles and throughout this solo career, reflected a sincere interest in Indian music.

Fusion music is very difficult to create: above all, among the musicians, there must been a genuine interest and appreciation between the two schools of music. For example, George Harrison was so successful in making fusion music, as he studied the sitar as any other rising Indian student would; as in, he did not exploit his “rock star” status…

In purest sense, the purpose of drums is to communicate. With fusion music, cross-cultural communication is a given, as two different forms of music are mixed and mashed together. In the context of the Kodo- Bløf performances, it was apparent that a very special personal connection among the Japanese and Dutch musicians was forged through the music.

It was very much so evident that the members of Bløf had a sincere enthusiasm for Japanese taiko music. Not only did the music sound fantastic, but also it was clear that all the musicians were having a blast, as all the musicians were nothing but smiles. By the final night, during the big drum solo between Kodo and Bløf drummer (Norman Bonink), Norman was even wearing a traditional Japanese headband!

Within the parameters of research “spirituality in drumming and drum crafting,” it might be questionable as to what was the “spiritual” element to the Kodo- Bløf performances.

Spirituality has the connotation of the individual’s connection to the Divine; yet, in a certain sense, can “spirituality” also implicate a more personal connection between two humans? To clarify, there is something wholly “spiritual” about two people forming such a strong, personal connection, especially when that bond breaks down cultural barriers. Surely, “spirituality” is a rather ambiguous term and concept; but, after witnessing the Kodo- Bløf performances, I do affirm that a “spiritual” union can be formed between two people, vis-à-vis music.

The second part of this post will describe the concert itself…

Shogo loads equipment after the show

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