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February 25th – Global Currents!

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

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On February 25th at 5 pm, we will be performing alongside The Nile Project, Ballet Folclorico do Brazil, Futa Toro West African Drummers and Dancers, Halau Keali`i O Nalani, Las Colibri, and Yuval Ron Ensemble for “Global Currents” at the Valley Performing Arts Center.  The festival is from 1-6 pm on the VPAC Lawn & Courtyard and is FREE!

Happy Lunar New Year!

Monday, February 6th, 2017

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We been having fun and keeping busy over the holidays and into the New Year.

In December, we hosted our sold out home concert, Taiko Heroes 3, here in Los Angeles at Live Arts LA.  We brought in Kaoru Watanabe, his student Fumi Tanakadate, and Yuta Sumiyoshi of Kodo.  It was a great night of experimental taiko music.  Just the way we like it!  We hope to continue our relationships with Kaoru and Yuta.  Kaoru is a very accomplished musician and we love what he brings to the taiko world.  Yuta is super talented and is starting to make a name for himself, so we hope to continue to work with him in the future.  Thanks Kim for the photos!  And special thanks to Yui for all your hard work in making this happen!

In January, we had a fun, sold out “Fireside Series” concert at the Miles Memorial Playhouse.  We consider the Miles Memorial Playhouse to be a place where we have felt welcome from when we first got our start in Los Angeles.  Huge thank you to Justin Yoffe for always thinking of us and opening your doors to us!

From February 27th through March 5th, Abe, Sumie, Shoji, and Maz will be on tour to Guatemala and Nicaragua as part of the Japanese Arts in Latin America program!  We are super excited as it’s been a while since we’ve traveled internationally.  Special thank you to Tomomi Tanikawa of the Japan Foundation, New York for organizing this amazing tour!

On March 11th and 12th, we will making appearances at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm for the Cherry Blossom Festival at Descanso Gardens.  Have you ever been to Descanso Gardens before?  If not to come watch us, go visit there and enjoy the beautiful botanical collections.  We love coming here as it’s one of our favorite places to play (and perform) in LA.

In June, we will be returning to Maui after five years to perform for Zenshin Daiko’s Annual Taiko Festival.  We love Zenshin Daiko!  Hawaii, in general, means a lot to us as a lot of us have lived and played taiko there.  Uncle Tony and Val have been a force in the taiko community and we appreciate their continued support over the years.  Zenshin Daiko is one of the top kids taiko groups in the U.S. and we are excited to go back and see their development.

In July, we will be headed to Eugene, OR to return for the Oregon Bach Festival.  We had an amazing experience there in 2009 and are excited to be back!  We will have an evening concert on July 14 and a family show on July 15.

On September 13th, we will be going to Pullman, WA to perform at Washington State University for their performing arts series at Jones Theatre at Daggy Hall.  This is our first time there and we are excited to visit the fine city of Pullman which is the “Best Place to Raise Kids” according to Wikipedia.  We will be searching for the best place to eat and get a beer, so if you have suggestions, please let us know!  We love great food and beer!  As artists, we appreciate the quality, thought, consideration, and time put into amazing food and beer as we are aspiring to become decent cooks and brewers.  Check out Eien’s website all about his artistry, cooking, and brewing skills.

On November 4th, Shoji and Maz will be heading to Fort Wayne, Indiana to join our good friends from Fort Wayne Taiko for their home concert.  Over the past few years, we have passed through on our tours and taught Fort Wayne Taiko the ever-popular piece, Omiyage, written by Shoji.  We will join them on Omiyage and few other songs as their guest artists.  We love Fort Wayne Taiko and what they’ve done for the community.  Special thanks to Allison Ballard for coordinating with us to make this happen!

We have new promotional photos!  Check out a couple here:

Photo credit:  Bryce Craig

Hope to see you soon at one of our performances!

ShastaYama 2016!

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

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!

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

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Circling up before the show.

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Me and my mom!

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Dad on the sax.

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A view of the audience.

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On Ensemble takes the stage!

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Abe and Sumie hanging out at the photo shoot!

SummerSounds Recap

Friday, July 29th, 2016

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.

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Awesome backdrop!

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Jammin’ on Lion Chant.

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

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

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Photo op with one of our fans!

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

Chicago/Fort Wayne/Lakewood Tour Recap

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Where to start. I really meant to be doing tour updates along the way but neglected to so get ready for the big Chicago/Fort Wayne/Lakewood tour recap! The tour started with me loading up the trailer and hitting driving to Moab UT and stayed at Hop’s house (Thanks Hop!) which is a well known touring taiko musician road stop. It’s about as far as you can possibly drive from Los Angeles in one day and sets you up well to cross the rockies so we end up staying there a lot! Also Hop is an awesome taiko nut and great fun to hang out with so a big part of it is for the company. As an added bonus Moab is beautiful and when I drove in the moonlit desert scenery almost made me forgot about the 10 hour drive.

The next day I drove through the Rockies to pick Maz up at the Denver airport. The drive through the Rockies was absolutely beautiful as the aspens were all changing color. I must have picked the exact perfect day to make that drive and a TON of people from Denver had the same idea because the traffic getting out of the Rockies into Denver was insane. But you know I live in Los Angeles so it made me feel like I was on the 10 but with better scenery. By the time I picked up Maz at the airport I was several hours late and we drove well into the night to make up time. Luckily as we were driving through Nebraska the lunar eclipse was in full view right in front of us the whole night. It made for another beautiful drive and I thought that somehow though absolute luck we must have scheduled this tour for the most picturesque driving possible.

After spending a night somewhere in Nebraska we drove into Chicago and picked up Eien and Sumie from Ohare and met up with Ho Etsu Taiko! We performed together at the Old Town School of Music on a Wednesday night to a packed house. It was a great performance and the Old Town School of Music is such a wonderful magical place! Everywhere you turn there are music and dance classes and people hanging out and art everywhere! It’s exactly what a center for music and dance should be like! After the Old Town School of Music performance we had two days of rehearsals and preparation for ROTATIONS. Followed by two great performances with Ho Etsu Taiko on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. There will be some pictures and video of ROTATIONS soon and I will post them as soon as I get them! The concert series was a HUGE success both artistically and organizationally and I’d like to give huge props to all of Ho Etsu Taiko: Jason, Tiana, Alexa, Donny, Ryan, Dana, Emily and Jamie for an amazing job well done! Also a shout out to Grace for her back stage help SOUNDGUY and to the ever awesome taiko-tech-do-everything-wonder-woman Sarah for all of her help. (more…)

Rotations Behind the Scenes

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

Take a sneak peep behind the scenes of our upcoming collaborative concert with Ho Etsu Taiko in Chicago. I’ve been working with Ho Etsu for the past year and half and it’s been really rewarding to work with a group like this over a longer period of time. They were the first group outside of On Ensemble that I taught Lion Chant to and they helped debut the piece at the 2014 World Taiko Gathering. We’ve been working on more collaborative pieces and this video gives you a little behind the scenes look into that process! Enjoy!

UK Taiko Festival Awesomeness

Friday, July 10th, 2015

What an epic weekend of amazing taiko awesomeness! First of all I’d like to thank Jonathan, Lucy and all of the volunteers from Kagemusha and Tano Taiko that put so much work into making the festival a success. Also a huge shout out and thank you to the Kirby family for their incredible hospitality! The festival was packed with great performances and workshops. There was a concert of youth groups from around the UK on Friday night. A fun 10 groups play for 10 minutes style concert on Saturday during lunch and a full formal concert by Ikari Taiko from Osaka that evening. Then another intimate midday concert on Sunday featuring Ikari Taiko, The Genki Spark, Unit Souzou, Kagemusha Taiko and myself. During Saturday and Sunday Michelle, Toru and myself all taught workshops that were designed to complete each other as a workshop block. There were also the after parties, lots of hanging out and talking taiko and even an epic after after party that included a good number of us heading to the local night club and dancing the night away.

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I have had so many interesting, inspiring and enlightening conversations and so many experiences to process that I’ll have to take some time to think on it all. I will say that I come away from the UK Taiko Festival amazingly inspired by the growth of the world wide taiko community and the people who make up the community.

After the festival concluded I spent the week with Kagemusha Taiko teaching two workshops then headed to London with the group and helped out on a corporate team building workshop that Jonathan ran with 3 other Kagemusha Taiko members. Having never had any kind of ‘real’ job the corporate world feels like a foreign country with it’s own unique language. It was very interesting to see how Jonathan applied taiko principles and practices in a way that was relevant to the group of employees who were assembled for the event. Watching the group who had never played taiko before play an entire piece and seeing their smiles and energy was a great reminder of the power of taiko to bring people together.

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This weekend I’m in Germany for a weekend intensive at Schloss Buchenau. I’ll post more on it later but it’s been an amazing experience thus far! Taiko people are my kind of people and I constantly feel blessed to be able to travel the world to teach, meet and hang out with taiko peeps! Will post more on this soon!

NATC 2015

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

Tomorrow I’m headed to Las Vegas for the 2015 North American Taiko Conference! I’ll be teaching two workshops at the conference and leading a performance for a group of kaDON subscribers from around the world who are going to help debut a new piece that I wrote for kaDON! We are also debuting a new piece of taiko equipment that I’ve been helping develop for kaDON at the taiko conference!

The taiko conference is always a great way to reconnect with the taiko community and I’m looking forward to seeing many old friends and meeting new taiko people!

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