Interview with Kaoly Asano

Translated by Aya Yoshida:  

Rakunatural Tsushin (Prema, Inc.) – Featured Article, May 2015 Vol. 92

Prema, Inc. 15th Anniversary Celebration

GOCOO Wadaiko Live – A spectacular performance that shaked the audience’s soul

Voice from the audience:

– It resonated with my body like fireworks and I didn’t feel tired at all after 2 hours on my feet.

– GOCOO’s performance was a masterpiece that shared bursting energy with the audience. I am completely recharged.

– I loved the performance. I am going to check out their official website and will follow them so I can dance more!

Interview with the leader of GOCOO, Kaoly Asano

Fateful Encounter with Wadaiko (Japanese drum)

The very first time she stood in front of a Japanese drum, Kaoly was struck by such thoughts as “I know this!” and “I’m home!”  Although she’d never played one before, she felt as if “her body remembers.”  She started playing taiko with a conviction that she absolutely knew “how it should be done.”  It was, indeed, an encounter of destiny.  She knew that it was that one thing she’d been looking for, and decided at that moment that she will “live by playing the drums.”  

Such determined person had a complex toward music.  Growing up, Kaoly was a weak child who suffered from asthma.  Every time she wanted to try something, she worried that her body may give in.  Every time she actually tried, she became ill which led to a long history of mental trauma.  As she frequented the hospital, she started to realize that she felt worse by taking medications.  By the time she was in elementary school, she started to reject Western medicine and began searching for other ways to deal with her own body.  She learned about Oriental medicine, changed her diet and became a vegetarian in high school.  Around that time, she started to search for life’s meaning thinking that each and every person has a respective role that s/he was born to fulfill. 

As an adult, Kaoly began working as an acupuncturist. One of her teachers taught her how to approach from the flow of the whole body, not from the points, but from the meridian. “Moving along the meridian” is linked to the current performance style of GOCOO. The same is true for food. Even if she seemed to be lost, Kaoly says that she was meant to go through the necessary path. 

Kaoly worked hard as an acupuncturist, but she still did not find an answer about what she was really meant to do.  She had the desire to help the patient’s own healing power activate, but in many cases it ended as a one-way feeling.  She realized that for some who continue to be ill, there is a reason, an unconscious desire, to be so, and that she did not have to power to change such desire.  That’s when she encountered wadaiko.

Music that Connects

GOCOO’s wadaiko music has “connections.”  Connections of the circulation of energy of those who are there.  A huge door of energy opens and connects at once. When this is experienced, everything feels OK – a strong, pleasant, happy moment without reasoning.  It is not uncommon for people with certified long-term care needs living in wheelchairs to have an obvious response when the live concert begins. Kaoly says that whenever she beats the drums, she tries to let go of her daily routine and stay as pure as possible.  When you try to look good or have many thoughts in your head, it disrupts the performance, she says. As with anyone else, she also feels anger, concerns, sadness and so on in her daily life, and to express all of that in her performance allows her to share the pureness at the core.  

The “connections” of GOCOO’s wadaiko music also connects us to the roots of the land, people and country that Japan has created.  GOCOO’s performance is quite different from what many people think of as so-called “Japanese drumming.” But it feels more “wa”(Japanese).  There is something that leads us to the beginning of here and now, beyond the recent decades, or the past hundreds of years. Many people say that they feel proud to be a Japanese when they listen to the performance of GOCOO. Kaoly herself feels very proud to play taiko as a Japanese person. Perhaps that’s why GOCOO’s wadaiko music is highly acclaimed around the world.

Over ten years ago, Kaoly was invited by Dennis Banks, a Native American, to perform in Indian reservations. At that time, the pride in their blood was being lost among young Native American people. By listening to GOCOO’s performance, it was Mr. Banks’s hope that young people would remember the roots of their culture and their pride within. This trip to the United States has become a very big turning point for Kaoly. In this physically challenging three-week long trip, Mr. Banks taught her how to find herself while Kaoly traveled and slept in a sleeping bag. She overcame the trauma of being sick all the time growing up and gained confidence in her body’s capability.

Recently, a couple from the Republic of Saha in the Russian Federation has asked if Kaoly would teach their children Japanese drumming. This couple works to revive the now-lost traditional drumming of Saha.  Kaoly wondered if her Japanese wadaiko could contribute to the revival of Saha’s tradition. However, she made the decision to teach after being taught how far into the future they think.  That their children born and raised in Saha will pass on the experience of wadaiko to the next generation, and that as they pass through generations, they will become Saha’s own culture. 

Drumming is originally considered trance music, and the most primitive form of music. GOCOO’s “Japanese” drumming resonates with the roots of all races wherever in the world you may be.

Freeing Yourself

GOCOO’s wadaiko music is very free.  GOCOO runs a taiko school called TAWOO, which Kaoly also wants it to be a place that feels safe and free. Most of us live with obligations at home and in society with things we are “supposed to do.”  They can be useful in life, but gradually it becomes more and more difficult to free yourself from them even when they are not needed.  It is difficult to let such things go completely when life must go on.  But through wadaiko, she believes that one is able to move freely and express oneself.  Feel the “connection.”  That experience of firmly feeling one’s roots seems to lead to such a way of life where one can flourish in his or her own time.