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Japan’s taiko reinvents drum tradition

Yoshikazu Fujimoto has been a member of taiko troupe Kodo for decades

SADO: In a hall on Japan’s Sado island, 71-year-old Yoshikazu Fujimoto strikes the imposing drum mounted before him, producing a boom so powerful that it reverberates through the floorboards.

Fujimoto is a veteran performer of Japanese taiko drumming, a musical form with roots in religious rituals, traditional theatre and the joyous abandon of seasonal festivals called matsuri.

But for all its ancient pedigree, taiko as a stage performance is a fairly modern invention, developed by a jazz musician and popularised in part by one of Japan’s most famous troupes: Sado island’s Kodo.

Fujimoto is the oldest of the 37 musicians that make up the group,…

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