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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
Hi all. A new video has been posted from the Taiko Heroes concert series! Lion Chant, composed by Shoji. I’d like to personally thank my childhood best friend, Ian Mora, who filmed and put these videos together. Ian and I were such good friends in elementary school that I think we became a nuisance to our teachers and we were never in the same class after fourth grade. Ian was always naturally talented for everything he did and film was always one of his loves. We made all sorts of stupid home videos when we were young that were quite awesome, if I must say. Ian is a much better actor than I am, but he always had to direct the videos, so I was often the main actor with our other bad actor friends. So embarrassing! From Kung Fu videos to claymation, we had a great time. Ian was also in Shasta Taiko and we were also in a rock band together called “King Gorira”. If we didn’t have those things growing up, we would have gotten in all sorts of trouble!
Stay tuned for more videos!
On Ensemble recently went on tour to Wyoming and then to Texas. As you know, we drive EVERYWHERE. It helps save cash and, even though it’s still burning fuel, it’s better for our carbon footprint versus flying. Fun time on the road!
-Approximate miles driven in the van – 5,563 plus
-Shoji and Kelvin’s approximate time spent in the van – 49 plus
-Maz and Kris’ approximate time spent in the van – 90 plus
-States passed through – California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Texas
-Time zones passed through – 3 (Pacific, Mountain, and Central)
-Number of Lecture/Demonstrations – 7
-Number of Concerts – 3
-Times chains had to be used – 2
-Approximate cups of rice made – 30
-Approximate curry lunches (Punjab Choley from Trader Joe’s) consumed – 13
-Approximate tofu dinners consumed – 10
-Times our gas light went on – Once. There was a stretch of the 10 freeway in Texas where there were no gas stations for like 150 miles. Abunai!
-We actually had time to watch the 49ers vs Giants NFC Championship game! It was fun, but we wished for a different out come!
-Times I got asked if I was “that guy in the Hangover” – 4. Dang Ken Jeong. Is this a good compliment or a bad one? Maybe it’s time for a haircut.
-Times Kris got asked if he looked like Scott Hamilton – Once, but this was probably the 2nd or 3rd time someone asked him that. Other people Kris has been compared to: Chris Martin of Coldplay, Paul Bettany, Ari Shapiro (voice only), and… Arnold Schwarzenegger???
-I asked Shoji and Kelvin who they’ve been compared to. Shoji said Jake Shimabukuro. Kelvin said Saul Williams.
-Kris won the “Man Card” of the tour. He was the best at backing up the trailer. I had to give up being the driver and he had to take over.
-Kris and I stopped at “The Thing” off of the Interstate 10 Freeway. I can’t tell you what it is. You have to google it. Silly stuff… it was only a dollar, so why NOT? Gotta do at least one silly thing on tour right?
My old family friend, Yuri Kageyama is having a book party with reading of poems and music tomorrow, August 15, 8pm at Yoshi’s in San Francisco. Her son, Isaku, is performing taiko along with old family friend, Makoto Horiuchi on guitar, and Eric Kamau Gravatt on drum set. Please check it out!!!
For more info: CLICK HERE.
Kris and I are at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University in Chicago rehearsing for Eric Whitacre’s Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings! We’re performing tomorrow at Roosevelt University and are totally excited as always to be part of this production. We got in yesterday and spent the evening having a lesson and having fun with our host, John Yost. Thanks John and family for hosting us and letting us borrow your drums!
For those of you who don’t know, Paradise Lost is a production we did in Pasadena in 2007 that ran for about three months. It combines operatic singing (with seven leads), a choir (over 200 singers!), acting, choreographed fighting, electronica, cello, a DJ, and taiko (us, of course). The story is about children of angels who were locked in their angel city when their parents left to battle. The parents never came back and the children are forced to govern themselves. This results in internal conflict.
Last year, Shoji and I performed at Carnegie Hall in New York which was a blast! This year, we’re here in Chicago and are at Disney Hall in Los Angeles on June 25. Check it out!
Here is a picture of today’s rehearsal. You can see Kris and the taiko all the way on the left side.