ShastaYama 2016!

August 2nd, 2016 | posted by:

After our last performance at SummerSounds, we got in our cars and drove straight up to Mt. Shasta for ShastaYama.  A long 10 hour drive up I-5 in 110 degree weather, we arrived around midnight and checked in Eien, Sumie, and Abe into their hotel.  I went to my parents’ with my wife, Courtney (who is the best for supporting me and On over the years), and Shoji went home to his parents’.  We all got a few hours of sleep and then had a morning tech rehearsal.  The weather was starting to get nice and toasty.  Close to 100 degrees!

Nevertheless, ShastaYama was magical as always.  This year, Shasta Taiko, Taiko Trekkers, Tadaima (my mom and dad’s jazz group with Gary Fitzgerald), Steve Cervantes, and Unit Souzou performed and we closed the show.  It’s always the best to perform for the home crowd!

ShastaYama will always make me emotional because it’s home!  My mom and dad, Jeanne and Russel, obviously mean a lot to me, and to pull ShastaYama off for 10 plus years is quite a feat.  Plus, it means I get to perform with them, my bro, Shoji, my wife, and some of the best people and musicians in the world.  I will always treasure these memories that have built up over the years.

We also had a photo shoot in the beautiful countryside of Mt. Shasta.  I’m looking forward to seeing the results.  Stay tuned!

After the photo shoot, Abe and Courtney drove back to LA, Eien dropped Sumie off at the Medford airport on the way back to Portland, and Shoji and I are staying to work on some new material.

It was a great tour.  Full of awesome music, beer, food, and company.  Thanks to all for helping us along the way!


Getting some dinner and hanging out with bears and a statue of sasquatch at Granzella’s!


Circling up before the show.


Me and my mom!


Dad on the sax.


A view of the audience.


On Ensemble takes the stage!


Abe and Sumie hanging out at the photo shoot!

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SummerSounds Recap

July 29th, 2016 | posted by:

On July 18, Sumie flew in and Eien drove in to meet up with Shoji, Abe, and I to start rehearsals for LAPhil’s SummerSounds at the Hollywood Bowl and for ShastaYama.

For SummerSounds, we had two performances everyday from July 25 – July 29 for countless kids and their parents.  It was a challenge for us as we had some acting to do.  Actually, it was more of a challenge for Shoji as he had most of the lines.  Good job Shoji!  In short, the story was about Japanese taiko, our instruments, and our music.  We traveled from Japan to Los Angeles with Smith (the new Summer Sounds guide) to visit Mr. K (the retiring Summer Sounds guide) and convince him to love our music.  Special thanks to the Summer Sounds staff and all the ushers for helping us load in and load up every day!  It was a blast.


Awesome backdrop!


Jammin’ on Lion Chant.


Sumie and Mr. K.  “Mr. K, please don’t improvise on my koto!”


This made me super happy.  The Kodama were hiding in the bamboo in the backdrop!


Photo op with one of our fans!


It’s a wrap!  The ushers helped us every day!  Mr. K was amazing.  We miss you, Smith!

Preparing for SummerSounds

July 24th, 2016 | posted by:

We’ve just spent a week preparing for our run of performances at LAPHil’s SummerSounds series. The series is geared for children age 3-11 and it’s hosted by two characters Mr. K and Ms. Smith. We’ve been working with the amazing SummerSounds creative staff to put together this show and it should be a lot of fun. The actors, writer and director have all been fantastic to work with and it’s a very insightful way to introduce world music to young audiences. I’ve also been working on another theatrical project that I’ll post about soon and whenever I work with actors or writers from the theater world in LA I’m just floored by the level of talent in this city.

Later this week we’ll be headed up to Mt. Shasta to perform at Shastayama! I also have a ton of other projects to post about and catch you all up on and we are starting the process of redesigning the website. Will be posting more soon!





On Ensemble performing at SummerSounds at the Hollywood Bowl

July 24th, 2016 | posted by:


Next week we’ll be performing at the Hollywood Bowl as a part of LAPhil’s SummerSounds. SummerSounds is a fun-filled four week series of lively concerts, combined with art workshops. Each concert is hosted by the dynamic duo of Mr. K and Ms. Smith who lead you on a journey to discover music dance and art from cultures all around the world!

We’ll be performing next week from July 25-29 twice daily at 10:00am and 11:15am. Tickets are $16 and more info can be found at:

On Ensemble at APAP 2016

January 11th, 2016 | posted by:


Established in 2002 On Ensemble is one of the most respected ensembles in the taiko (Japanese drumming) world. Led by childhood friends Shoji Kameda and Masato (Maz) Baba, On Ensemble is recognized for infusing the powerful rhythms of taiko with a wide range of musical influences from jazz and rock to central asian overtone singing. Their fearless musical exploration has expanded the artistic range of the taiko and has taken these ancient instruments into new realms. The group’s unique sound has been praised as “completely original and brilliantly conceived.” Modern Drummer magazine calls On Ensemble “an exciting taiko ensemble looking at new ways to apply traditional Japanese drums.” On Ensemble was the first American taiko group to be invited to perform at the National Theater of Japan for the prestigious Nihon no Taiko concert series.

Shoji and Maz were taught taiko at an early age (8 and 6) by Maz’ parents, accomplished taiko players and jazz musicians Jeanne Mercer and Russel Baba. The duo has been playing and making music together for over 30 years and are recognized as two of the brightest stars in the taiko world. Together with the other members of On Ensemble they combine their study and deep appreciation of Japanese traditional music with equally formative experiences as DJs, electronic music producers, and rock bassists to produce, record and perform some of the most compelling and creative taiko music.

APAP Showcases
Saturday January 16th: 8:20pm and 9:20pm
Morgan Suite, 2nd Floor, NY Hilton

On Ensemble Performance with Kaoru Watanabe and Sumie Kaneko
Sunday January 17th: 6:00pm
Shapeshifter Lab, 18 Whitwell Place Brooklyn NY 11215

What Presenters are saying:
“The Aratani World Series was thrilled to have On Ensemble in our inaugural season. This company delivers a diverse and artistically mind blowing performance. Shoji Kameda does an excellent job contextualizing the program from the stage and every member is spot on in terms of virtuosic technique and theatrical presentation. Audiences jumped to their feet begging for more. A young, energetic program with broad appeal, we were proud to present On Ensemble.”
Judy Mitoma
, Series Producer and Curator, World Festival of Sacred Music

“On Ensemble was a pleasure to present and the concert program was extremely well received by the students and teachers. Infusing the art form of taiko with a myriad of influences, the music is unique and compelling. The members are remarkable musicians and have a true passion for their work. Beyond their energetic music, one highlight of the performance was a question and answer session with the young audience, which the ensemble approached with sincerity and encouragement. With outstanding musicianship and thought-provoking discussion, it was exactly the kind of experience we strive to offer our participants… I would recommend On Ensemble highly for any presenter looking for an engaging and enlightening world-music ensemble.
Theresa Willis Peters, 
Program Coordinator, Design for Sharing

“The contemporary music of On Ensemble blended with traditional Taiko made this a totally new experience! Aside from the incredible talent and energy of the On Ensemble, we found them to be a presenter’s dream. From their enthusiastic outreach performance to the question and answer session that followed, the On Ensemble was a total joy!”
Marlene Hendrickson
, University of Montana Presents

Represented by: Rahcel Cohen, Cadence Arts Network, APAP Booth 1022
ph: 310 701 9191 email:

Up Next: Taiko Heroes 2

November 16th, 2015 | posted by:


A long time ago in a mountain town far far away… Two childhood friends grew up playing taiko together dreaming of far of destinations. When they were of age they set off to learn from the great taiko masters seeking them out in islands across the sea. They gathered knowledge, honed their skills and gathered more like minded musicians from across the land and became known as On Ensemble. Every year they set off across the galaxy in their modified (with duct tape) Toyota Engineering Corporation Sienna Model Light Freighter to spread their message of music.

It’s time for our annual concert series at the Miles Memorial Playhouse! Taiko Heroes is a chance for us to put together new material and gather friends and family to have one last concert before the year ends. It started as our ‘Works In Progress’ series and it still serves as our own creative space to try new arrangements and pieces. Recently we’ve also expanded the idea to include more people from the On Ensemble family! This year we’ll be featuring On Ensemble founding member and current LATI head instructor Kristofer Bergstrom as a guest artist as well as PROTA a young taiko group that is full of some of SoCals best young taiko talent! See you there!

Taiko Heroes 2
On Ensemble / Kris Bergstrom / PROTA
December 19th 8:00pm
December 20th 2:00pm
Miles Memorial Playhouse
1130 Lincoln Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403
General Admission: $22.50 pre-sale/$25 door

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On Ensemble in St. Louis

October 27th, 2015 | posted by:

We are headed to St. Louis for a weekend of workshops and performance with St. Louis Osuwa Taiko. The weekend starts off with a performance at the Focal Point with St. Louis Osuwa Taiko. Then they are hosting an entire weekend of workshops for the midwest taiko community! All together there are 6 workshops being offered over the course of two days. It should be a great weekend of performances and workshops!

On Ensemble in Concert with St. Louis Osuwa Daiko

Thursday Oct 29th 2015
The Focal Point
Tickets: $15/$20
2720 Sutton
Maplewood, MO 63143

Taiko Groove : On Ensemble and Mu Daiko

October 27th, 2015 | posted by:

We are very excited about heading to Minneapolis for a collaborative series of concerts with Mu Daiko called Taiko Groove! Way back in 2003 Mu Daiko brought us out to Minneapolis for the first time for a collaborative concert called ‘Drums of Fire’! It was one of the first big performances outside of the West Coast and I remember being so excited about getting to travel for a performance. I will always be grateful to Mu Daiko for believing in us and our music right from the beginning. Since that first concert series we’ve been back a couple of time for performances and workshops and have built a great relationship with Mu Daiko over the years. Taiko Groove is going to be our most integrated and artistically challenging collaboration thus far! We are really looking forward to sharing the stage again with Mu Daiko and hope you’ll join us for Taiko Groove!

directed by Jennifer Weir
Assistant Director: Emma Valentine
E.M. Pearson Theatre, Concordia University
312 Hamline Avenue St. Paul, MN 55104

Taiko Groove is a collaborative concert that explores a more contemporary taiko groove. Witness a variety of instrumentation, rhythms and melody, and of course the visceral excitement and chest-rattling of our big drum numbers that audiences love.


Thursday, November 5 at 7:00 PM
Friday, November 6 at 7:00 PM
Saturday, November 7 at 2:00 PM (Pay what you can)
Saturday, November 7 at 7:00 PM
Sunday, November 8 at 2:00 PM

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