GOCOO (pronounced gokuu) is a Japanese Taiko Drum band that, while playing more than 40 Japanese drums, creates the sound and beat of mother earth. The band consist of 7 female and 4 male members who generate their original sound that cannot simply be categorized as traditional, folk or rock music. The sound is more primitive and trance-like and it is beyond nationality and music genre. The core of the band is its leader, Kaori Asano, who possesses the enchanting power of a modern shaman.
Ms. Asano brings her sticks down with full power as she swings her long hair as in a shishi lion dance.
Ms. Asano has said: “On stage, there comes a moment when daily affairs are stripped down to nothing but “love” and “gratitude” - the most genuine feelings of our souls. I think this must be what was originally intended by the idea of having a “festival”. I am often told that I am expressing something new but in truth, the newest things are intimately connected with the oldest things”
The band was formed in 1997 and GOCOO is highly regarded in Japan as well as in other countries. They have performed more than 100 shows abroad, including Europe. Their music was used in the movie, Matrix. GOCOO also performed their music at the opening of the Earth Summit in 2008 as an Asian representative.
Wa-daiko are percussion instruments and a general term used for Japanese stick drums.
They are made from the trunk of a tree such as Keyaki wood which is hollowed out and sealed on both ends of the drum body with animal skin, mostly from cows. The player beats the skin and it vibrates to make sound.
There is another traditional percussion instrument called tsuzumi which has the same construction as wa-taiko but a smaller size. Tzuzumi are played with the hand, as opposed to the taiko drum which is struck with a drumstick or other instrument.
The history of the taiko drum goes back to ancient times - as early as the Joumon period (BC10,000 – BC300) in which a musical instrument with a similar structure is said to have already existed.
In the Middle Ages, when Dengaku - dance performance to celebrate the harvest, was developed, Ohayushi-daiko, smaller stick drums, became popular. In the Sengoku period, taiko drums were used for military purposes (Jin-daiko) and, in the Edo period, they were used inside the Edo Castle to announce the time. Over the ages, taiko drums were used for many occasions and purposes and they have become rooted in people’s everyday life.
The fact that taiko drums have been used as ceremonial tools to communicate with God in temples and shrines has made them very special instruments that resonate deeply in the Japanese people’s hearts.
In the Showa period, contemporary ensemble style drumming called Kumi-daiko became popular. It is made up of various different kinds of taiko drums, and the unique sound has been enchanting people around the world ever since.
Koinobori Festival, or Carp Streamer Festival, is held in Kanna-machi, Tano-gun, Gunma Prefecture. From the late April through the early May, about 800 carp streamers are flying along the upstream of the Kanna River. The festival was first held in 1981 by the local people bringing their family’s carp streamers. It is said to be the trailblazer of the festivals of this kind, which can be seen many places in the country now.
As many as 30,000 people from all over the country come to see this overwhelming scenery. From May 3rd to 5th, a lot of events including the fair for local vegetables and products, Japanese drum performance, various street performances are held on the river bank. Visitors can also enjoy a river cruise on carp-shaped rafts. It’s a refreshing and enjoyable summer event.
Oishi Shrine in Ako City, Hyogo Pref. was built in 1912 at the place where Kuranosuke Oishi and Matazaemon Fujii’s residences used to be. The shrine honors 47 Ako loyal warriors, Sanpei Kayano, the Asano family (the load of Asano-han) and the Mori family collectively. About 150,000 visitors crowd in the shrine during the New Year’s holidays and many of them purchase hamaya (arrow) or shofuku-dawara (lucky straw rice bag). The shrine maidens in pure white costume give a ceremony of purification at any time of the year. At the turn of the New Year, they beat a drum 47 times after 47 Ako warriors and holy sake is given to the first 1,000 visitors by the hand of the High Priest and the maidens. It is also fantastic to hear Japanese taiko (drums) performance given by Ako Gishi-Daiko Preservation Association.