In its 42 year history, Ondekoza has been influential in spreading and popularizing taiko, particularly outside of Japan. Many of pieces arranged by Ondekoza have been incorporated into the repertoire of taiko groups around the world.
Ondekoza continually pursues greater means of expression through the use of taiko drums. By trimming the performance of all that is excessive, and playing to the limit of physical capabilities, Ondekoza believes that the sound of the drum alone is capable of striking a powerful impression. Ondekoza aims to create stage pieces that are enjoyable to children and adults alike.
Shime, Speed and Sound
Before each show, individual shime drums are tightened to the limit- a task requiring the synchronized strength of two members- in order to achieve the cutting sound that is representative of Ondekoza's style.
War Drums from the Island of Hachijo
400 years ago, after falling in the Battle of Sekigahara, Ukita Hideie was washed ashore on the island of Hachijo. Unable to escape, he was forced to spend his remaining life on the island. Replacing his swords with 'bachi', he is said to have drummed and sang to express his longing for his home.
- The sound never disappears. My sound never fades.
- Drum the drum and gather the people.
- To them I have something to say.
- If waves have minds, please carry my song.
One Back, One Drum
150cm in diameter, and 350kg in weight, the Odaiko is played to the physical limit of the drummer.
The now widely recognized style of wearing only a 'shimekomi' ('fundoshi loincloth) was originally started by Ondekoza when Pierre Cardin suggested that the physique of the drummer be exposed.
The style of showing the drummer's back to the audience was originally created by Ondekoza founder, Den Tagayasu, who was inspired by French actor Jean Gabin, who was said to "act with his back".
Ships and Rhythm, Requiem and Tradition
Ancient islanders of southern Japan, set sail towards the north in search of a rumored Utopia. Drums were played on these boats in order to ease the fear of the rowers, who were constantly threatened by deadly storms and waves. This beat is said to be the origin of Yatai-Bayashi.
Ondekoza's Yatai-Bayashi also reflects the experience of a young Den Tagayasu, who lost 41 of his 48 classmates in an air raid in Asakusa, on March 10th 1945. The piece is a requiem for his lost classmates.