A couple of weekends ago I had the pleasure of seeing a live performance by Kao=S, a band that performs rocking music with instruments ranging from guitar and rainstick to shakuhachi and tsugaru shamisen. That night I learned that they were performing at SXSW this month, which was exciting given Garrett’s recent post about スカパラ being one of the few bands from Asia performing at Coachella this year.
Kao=S’s music is driven by the sheer force of its members, each of whom contributes an element that can both stand on its own and make the end product more than the sum of its parts. The guitar and male vocals make the music accessible to more than just rock lovers, while the female vocals and sword dance ground it in the realm of drama and fantasy (in the best meaning of those terms). The shakuhachi gives an exhilarating rush to the band’s sound with its unmistakable texture, and the tsugaru and vocal harmonies blow the music out of the water of typical expectations for rock fusion.
Kao=S is the kind of band that you want to see, not just hear as audio. Their work is not just the music, but the entire performance—which just isn’t the same when stripped of its visual and physical dimensions. This can also mean that the performance has moments when it takes on a life of its own and leaves the audience behind; there’s some effort that has to be made on the part of the audience to actively follow the myriad things happening in some of their pieces—the dance, the instruments, the vocals and lyrics, the world that the band is trying to create. But if you’re willing to put in that effort, a Kao=S performance can be quite the thrill.
It’s exciting to see people taking instruments traditionally limited to Japanese music and giving them life beyond those confines. Things we consider “Japanese traditions” can thrive in just about any environment, and Kao=S’s work is a testament to that potential. (It’s certainly more exciting than James Horner’s score for Legends of the Fall (1994), which incorporated the shakuhachi—although that actually was pretty cool.)
So, if you happen to find yourself in Austin in the next couple of weeks, you might check out some of the band’s non-SXSW shows—your efforts will probably be well-rewarded.
[Image courtesy of Kao=S’s Facebook profile…thank you!]
On March 2nd, I went to the “Arigato from Japan” appreciation concert in Los Angeles, presented by the Consulate-General of Japan in Los Angeles and the Japan Foundation, where we watched performances by the Tohoku Folk Performance group and the world famous Ondekoza taiko group and other musicians.
I’ve always wanted to see Ondekoza perform, ever since going to Kodo’s “One Earth Tour” concert. The original Kodo members were all part of Ondekoza at first, until they split from Ondekoza to make their own group. Kodo remained in Sado Island, while the founder of Ondekoza moved to Shizuouka prefecture to continue Ondekoza. So seeing the roots of Kodo was very exciting, especially watching the performers playing on their Oodaiko (large taiko) on their well known yagura (the platform that the oodaiko is played on).
Below, you can see both Ondekoza’s and Kodo’s Oodaiko on their Yaguras. They may look the same, but the Chouchin (Lanterns) have the name of each group written on them.
Ondekoza’s Oodaiko on their Yagura
Kodo’s Oodaiko on their Yagura
In addition to the awesome taiko drumming, there was a nice clip that was shown at the beginning of the concert. The clip summarized the devastating events that occurred on March 11th, 2011 and then showed the progress Japan has made since the disaster. It’s a nice heartwarming clip, especially for those who have contributed to any of the relief fundraisers for Japan. I’ll post a link to the clip below and hope you all enjoy it.
I love taiko drumming and there will be a performance by Kishin Daiko coming up at the end of March at the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center’s annual Chery Blossom festival, so expect more posts about taiko from me soon! =)
Happy March everyone!
Was finishing up some work this morning, and had this on the iTunes. I forgot how good this song was, freakin A. For those of you into J-Rock, I suggest you check out Kyosuke Himuro. It’s no secret, I am a HUGE fan of his music and have been for years.
Himuro or ‘ヒムロック’, as they say got his start early performing and competing against other bands in high school. Rock wasn’t ‘popular’ in Japan save for the Beatles and a few other acts back then. However, after joining up with his high school friend and rival, Hotei Tomoyasu 布袋寅泰 – ace guitarist, and forming the band ‘Boowy’, all that changed. The genre ‘J-Rock’ was born, additionally paving ways to subcultures like Visual Kei and more.
Himuro Kyosuke - known as the 'King of Rock'
As of late, Himuro has been performing solo. While Boowy disbanded in 1988 and was considered one of the most popular bands in the nation, rumors claim there was some sort of disagreement between Hotei & Himuro – that neither could seem to let pass. Both artists went on to continue successful careers on their own, however only as of 2004 did Himuro start performing his legendary Boowy songs again for the public (without Hotei). Last year, he performed a Boowy tribute concert – donating entire proceeds of close to ￥670 Million ($8.7 Million) to the victims of the 2011 tsunami disaster in Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate, Japan.
All that said, his solo work is still as fantastic as ever. My favorite albums include ‘Flowers for Algernon‘, ‘In the Mood‘, ‘IDEA’ & ‘Collective Souls: The One Night Stands’. You may have heard his sounds in video games as well – his songs ‘Calling’ and ‘Safe & Sound ft. Gerard Way’ were in the movie ‘Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children’.
I am secretly wishing for a Boowy reunion at some point however – hopefully Hotei & Himuro can work together again.