Chieko Kojima first encountered Japanese folk dancing when she moved to Sado to join Sado no Kuni Ondekoza in 1976. She went on to become one of Kodo’s founding members in 1981. In addition to her work with Kodo, she also has an active solo career that is perhaps best characterized by her ongoing project, “Yukiai,” where she seeks out new encounters and collaborations with artists and taiko groups within Japan and throughout the world. Kojima is known for her original dancing style during Kodo’s taiko-based performances, which is best exemplified by her vivid portrayal of the goddess Ameno-uzume in the first season of “Amaterasu” in 2006. She became a Kodo Distinguished Member in 2012, and was the director of the annual concert series “Kodo Special Performances on Sado Island” for four years, starting from its inaugural season that same year. She continues to ambitiously broaden her expressive outlets, as demonstrated by her recent productions based on the “Tales of Dojoji,” which then became the inspiration for her first photo book, ” Kasane no Kiyohime Monogatari: The Myriad Layers of Kiyohime,” a unique work created with photographer Maiko Miyagawa and released in 2015. Website.
Native of Japan, Fumi Tanakadate is a taiko artist and pianist based in New York. Drawn to the artistry of Kaoru Watanabe, she has been studying taiko under him since 2011. Having a unique combination of an extensive musical expertise in European Classical music and a background in traditional folk dancing, drumming and flute playing from her local festival in Japan, she quickly became an active member of Néo, Watanabe’s ensemble that aims to blend the nostalgic sound of Japanese traditional festival and theater and the interplay of complex jazz improvisations. She has performed at Joe’s Pub, ShapeShifter Lab, Nublu, National Sawdust and Pioneer Works. Fumi has collaborated with Yuu Ishizuka, Sumie Kaneko, Shane Shanahan, Chieko Kojima, On Ensemble, Alicia Hall Moran and Satoshi Takeishi and performed in Kenny Endo’s 40th Anniversary Tour. Most recently, she was on tour with Kaoru Watanabe and Yuta Sumiyoshi of KODO as a trio.
Fumi also serves as an instructor at Kaoru Watanabe Taiko Center, teaching classes and giving educational workshops at local schools and colleges. Her former teachers include Mark H Rooney, Rogerio Boccato, and Mark Soskin. She also took workshops with Kenny Endo, Chieko Kojima, Patrick Graham, and Tetsuro Naito, and Yuu Ishizuka.
As a classical pianist, Fumi has performed throughout Japan, tri-state area, Austria, and Spain. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Earth and Environmental Sciences from Wesleyan University and a Master of Music degree in piano performance from Manhattan School of Music. Website.
Karen is the Founding Director of the multigenerational, pan-Asian women’s arts and advocacy group The Genki Spark based in Boston, MA, USA. Deeply committed to inspiring others to use the art of taiko and personal stories as a vehicle for empowerment and social change, Karen leads workshops on community building and leadership development designed to build relationships and give people tools to lead others. She leads workshops for the taiko community, most recently, at NATC in San Diego (USA), RTG Vancouver (Canada), and the ETC Exeter (UK) as well as for local grassroots community groups working to empower immigrants, youth, and members of the LGBTQ community. Karen got her start as a founding member of Odaiko New England and has been a been a member of the North American Taiko Community since 1997. Website.
One of the leading personas in contemporary percussion and rhythm, Kenny Endo is at the vanguard of the taiko genre, continuing to carve new territory in this Japanese style of drumming. A performer, composer, and teacher of taiko, he has received numerous awards and accolades, including very special recognition in Japan—he was the first foreigner to be honored with a “natori,” a stage name, in Japanese classical drumming. Kenny Endo was a featured artist on the PBS special “Spirit of Taiko” in 2005. He has performed for such musicians as the late Michael Jackson and Prince, opened for The Who, performed a duet with singer Bobby McFerrin, and is featured on the soundtracks for Kayo Hatta’s film “Picture Bride”, Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now”, and recently worked on James Cameron’s “Avatar”. He has had a day named for him in by the Mayor of Honolulu “Kenny Endo Day”, and was honored by the National Endowment for the Arts for American Masterpieces. He has released 10 CDs of original music. Kenny is a consummate artist, blending Japanese taiko with rhythms influenced by his jazz background and by collaborations with artists from around the world. Kenny’s taiko are provided courtesy of Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten. Website.
Kristofer Bergstrom is an accomplished taiko performer, composer, and choreographer, known for pushing the tonal possibilities of Japanese drums and for his groundbreaking movement for slant-style taiko. He was a founding member of On Ensemble, formed Los Angeles Taiko Institute alongside Yuta Kato, and is currently 2017-2018 Artist in Residence for Los Angeles County. Website.
Mark H. Rooney
Mark H Rooney – the world’s most dangerous half-Japanese/half-Scottish solo improvisational taiko artist – has studied, performed, and taught taiko in the U.S., Japan and Europe for the last 20 years. Mark combines his traditional foundation with a modern sensibility to create performances and classes that emphasize connection, reaction, and interaction. Website.
PJ Hirabayashi is the Artistic Director Emeritus and founding member of San Jose Taiko (estab.1973). For over 40 years, PJ has made taiko (the Japanese drum) her principal musical instrument to explore and unfold artistic possibilities through music, movement, spoken word, theater, and collaboration.
Her present focus is “TaikoPeace”, a grassroots movement she has initiated to amplify positive social change and personal transformation, unleash creativity, spark new connections of co-creativity, and heal the human spirit through the dynamic energy of taiko drumming. She uses her dance “Ei Ja Nai Ka” as a tool for community building—a dance of celebration, empowerment, and connection. PJ’s recent TaikoPeace activities include sharing stories of cultural identity and empowerment through art with artists in Japan (Okinawan, Korean, Ainu, buraku) and with Palestinian teens in Bethlehem.
PJ and husband, Roy Hirabayashi, have received lifetime achievement awards—Artist Legacy Laureate from Silicon Valley Creates, the National Heritage Fellowship for Traditional and Folk Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts, and Commendations from the Foreign Ministry of Japan. Website.
In 2018. celebrating 45 years of performing, composing and teaching taiko and shinobue. Co-founded San Jose Taiko in 1973, the third taiko group in North America. Internationally recognized artist, composer, producer and collaborator in national and international projects.
A champion for multicultural arts, social justice and cultural preservation known for starting organizations, fiscal management, fund-raising and empowering the next generation of leaders.
Roy is honored to be a recipient of the American Leadership Forum Silicon Valley John W. Gardner Leadership award, Japanese American Association of Northern California Bunka Hall of Fame, Alliance of California Traditional Arts Apprentice Program Master Artist, Silicon Valley Creates Legacy Laureate award, San Jose Office of Cultural Affair Cornerstone of the Arts award and the prestigious National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow in Folk and Traditional Arts. A full curriculum vitae is available on Wikipedia. Other professional links at LinkedIn.
Shoji is a Grammy nominated musician, composer and producer. He started playing taiko at the age of 8 and has played continuously since. He was selected through a highly competitive process as an Asian Pacific Performance Exchange fellow, collaborating with master artists from the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the USA. He was also selected as an Indonesian Arts Exchange fellow which sent him and three other master arts to central Java for three weeks to teach and perform. Collaborations with international artists have taken Shoji to Malaysia, French Guiana, Mongolia and Bali.
He composed the original score for Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story, Audience Award winner for Best Documentary at the Slamdance Film Festival. He was featured in the music of the hit NBC TV show “Heroes” performed with Stevie Wonder at the 2008 Democratic National Convention and received a Grammy nomination with jazz fusion band Hiroshima for his work on their album Legacy. In 2010 he collaborated with award winning puppet filmmaker Sam Koji Hale to create music for the short film Yamasong, which won first prize as the Best Animated Film at the Dragon Con film festival. As a founding member of On Ensemble and the group’s primary creative force he produced On Ensemble’s critically acclaimed albums Dust and Sand, Ume in the Middle and Bizarre Heroes. In 2013 On Ensemble was invited to perform at the National Theater of Japan for their prestigious “Nihon no Taiko” series. Shoji is sought after for workshops, masterclasses and compositions and travels around the world teaching and collaborating and performing. His compositions for taiko are performed by groups around the world. Shoji has partnered with taiko master Kenny Endo, leading taiko and fue artist Kaoru Watanabe and instrument maker Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten to create kaDON a new online venture dedicated to providing high quality video instruction for taiko and fue. Website.
With the support of the New York Buddhist Church, Soh Daiko was established in 1979 as the first taiko drumming group on the East Coast. Taking its name from Japanese characters meaning “peaceful, harmonious drums,” Soh Daiko finds its roots in supporting the local Japanese-American community. Over the past 35 years, that vision has expanded to sharing taiko with a broader audience, leading to performances across the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom. Soh Daiko’s repertoire incorporates a plethora of percussive and wind instruments, paired with dynamic choreography to create a riveting performance experience for audiences of all ages. Website.
Stuart Paton, Founder and Artistic Director of Burlington Taiko spent most of his childhood in Japan, from age nine months through eighteen years. His earliest exposure to taiko included a first-grade fascination with the drums at an Obon celebration in Tokyo, and learning “Matsuri Daiko” from the composer of the score for his high school drama production. His formal study of taiko began in 1984 during a summer apprenticeship with Grandmaster Seiichi Tanaka, the founder of the first taiko group in North America (San Francisco Taiko Dojo), and he founded the Burlington Taiko Group in 1986 not long after settling in Vermont.
Paton Sensei has established an artistic style for Burlington Taiko that combines movement, rhythm, voice, and the efficient and graceful movement of chi, or “energy,” from the player to the drum. His affection for the group dynamic of taiko is evident both when he performs at the most advanced level, and when he instructs the most novice players. Website.
Japanese Koto & Shamisen player and Jazz singer/songwriter Sumie (Sumi-é) Kaneko creates music that spans a millennium. A master in the traditional repertoire of these ancient instruments, she has also pioneered their use in jazz and experimental music, through solo and group performances worldwide.
Sumie began playing Koto at age 5, by the following year she was appearing on Japanese radio NHK. In 1995, she won the Takasaki International Competition in Koto performance. She studied Japanese traditional music at Tokyo National University of the Arts, and in 2006, studied Jazz vocal at Berklee College of Music. She has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Blue Note NY, TED talk, Regattabar, Getty Center, Boston Ballet, Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She has also given workshops at Harvard University, MIT, Princeton University, Wellesley College and Berklee College of Music, among other institutions. In 2014, her group was invited to the Washington, DC Jazz Festival, which is co-sponsored by the Embassy of Japan.
She has collaborated with many world instrumentalists, such as Evan Ziporyn, Kenny Endo, and Kaoru Watanabe, as well as painters, dancers and calligraphers. She has toured internationally in Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Jamaica with Japan Foundation‘s JAILA program, and every year since 2013 she is invited to Bangladesh, Pakistan from Embassy of Japan. In 2017 February, she returns to Japan Foundation and on tour in Nicaragua and Guatemala with a taiko group On Ensemble. Website.
Tiffany Tamaribuchi, an internationally recognized taiko master, has achieved a level of acclaim in trailblazing fashion. In the traditional taiko realm, of Japanese born and trained male performers, she creates a new powerful voice with her multicultural heritage, youth, and feminine perspective. Ms. Tamaribuchi’s determination and perseverance, through long hours of grueling practice in her initial studies, transformed her sense of life’s possibilities, which she now does for others.
As founder and artistic director of three active taiko groups, her vitality reaches extremely diverse audiences throughout North America, Europe, and Japan. First and foremost in her dedication is Sacramento Taiko Dan, a nonprofit organization that she began in 1989 to introduce taiko within her native community. Welcoming all interested drummers, Ms. Tamaribuchi instructs children and adult students, who graduate into the Children’s Ensemble and adult performing group. In tandem with taiko techniques, students acquire life lessons in observation, focus, relaxation, and the benefits of simply breathing. Taiko draws upon one’s entire spiritual being and elements of nature, which inspire Ms. Tamaribuchi’s original compositions and choreography used in Sacramento Taiko Dan’s extensive concert schedule of 45+ performances annually. Enriching her perspective, she also directs Tozai Wadaiko, a professional touring taiko ensemble comprised of individual artists from groups throughout the world. Consequently, Ms. Tamaribuchi fuses traditional taiko rhythms with modern influences for a fresh Japanese-American sound. Expanding the performance opportunities for women taiko players, Ms. Tamaribuchi formed and coordinates JO-Daiko, an exclusively women’s taiko ensemble which performs at events focused on women’s issues. Embodying strong and commanding images, JO-Daiko’s voice awakens a sense of self-empowerment for women-both as performers and spectators. Website.
After seven years studying with San Francisco Taiko Dojo, Kato was a leader of UCLA Kyodo Taiko before moving to Japan to study at Nihon Taiko Dojo and on Hachijo island. He performed professionally with TAIKOPROJECT, On Ensemble, Portland Taiko, and coordinated the 2011 North American Taiko Conference before turning his attention to taiko teaching. Kato currently resides in California serving as the principal and instructor for LATI (Los Angeles Taiko Institute) housed at the state-of-the-art taiko facility – Asano Taiko US. He performs as a member of UnitOne (Torrance, CA) and Unit Souzou (Portland, OR). Website.