“North American taiko … is hip, cool, unapologetic, and relevant to our own identity and contemporary life. It has a definite root … it is truly a species of its own.” – Former Katari Taiko member Vivien Nishi
Katari Taiko, the first taiko group formed in Canada, is not simply about traditions of the past. Rather, it is a constantly changing and intensely creative hybrid. On the evening of Saturday, December 6, 2014 at the Vancouver Playhouse, Katari Taiko will perform its own original and seminal works created, rearranged and presented over its 35 year history. They have invited some of the groups started by its members over the years to perform. Guest groups for this evening program of traditional and contemporary taiko music include the phenomenal first ever Canadian children`s taiko group Chibi Taiko, the raucous first Canadian all women`s group Sawagi Taiko, and the spicy cross cultural group Sansho Daiko – as well as the vibrant newcomer, Vancouver Okinawa Taiko. Each group will perform its own singular music and then join Katari Taiko in the premiere of a brand new collaborative work celebrating the large return of salmon to the FraserRiver expected this year.
Salmon, born in fresh water, migrate to the ocean, then return to the exact spot where they were born to spawn. Different species are found on either side of the Pacific Ocean. They are important in First Nations folklore, diet and culture. Salmon also provided the basis for the migration of Japanese people to Canada and the formation of a distinct Japanese Canadian culture of which taiko is no small part.
With support from the Vancouver Foundation, each of the five groups will perform a new 5-8 minute piece based on some aspect of salmon history and culture: migration, lore, life cycle, cuisine, poetry or other knowledge or experience, real or imagined. These works will be woven together by unifying threads, possibly made up of percussion, spoken word, song, masks and movement by taiko players. The new work is being developed for the 2015 Powell Street Festival and will be presented as a work-in-progress as part of Katari Taiko’s 35th Anniversary Celebration.
Katari Taiko has the distinction of being the first taiko drum group formed in Canada and has developed a large and enthusiastic popular following. Since its inception in 1979, this performing company has performed throughout Canada and the U.S. The group has appeared in numerous festival and theatre settings.
Katari Taiko has built up an extensive repertoire of both traditional and modern pieces, including original compositions. Their performances incorporate vocals, martial arts, poetry and theatre. The synergy of the group, their joy and passion, together with the visceral experience of the drumming appeals to audiences of all ages and transcends cultural barriers.
The group operates as a collective, with a goal to develop a form of Asian Canadian culture that incorporates the following elements: discipline, physical strength, grace, non-sexism, musical creativity.
Katari Taiko hopes to inspire other Asian Canadians to explore their community and culture. In keeping with this desire, they have given workshops to groups in Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Seattle, Victoria, and Kamloops. They also give regular open workshops in Vancouver to enable the general public to get a feeling for taiko and to serve as cultural exchange between Canadians of diverse ethnic backgrounds.
In 2013, Katari Taiko was fortunate to work with celebrated American taiko master, Tiffany Tamaribuchi from Sacramento, CA. Tamaribuchi mentored Katari Taiko, developed and taught a new piece for the group, and performed the new work with the group at the 2013 Powell Street Festival as well as at her concert at the Historic Theatre of the Vancouver East Cultural Centre featuring her group Jodaiko.
Katari Taiko also performed for Homeground 2013, a Downtown Eastside Festival for the homeless and poor, the Dragonboat Festival’s 25th Anniversary, Stanley Park’s 125th Anniversary Celebration, and for the Taiko Roots Concert as part of the Heart of the City Festival.
Katari Taiko performs with up to eight drummers.
The first children’s taiko ensemble in Canada, Chibi Taiko was founded in the fall of 1993 with the goal of passing this unique and dynamic performing art on to the next generation of Asian Canadians. Members range in age from 8 to 26 years old. The group’s philosophy emphasizes cooperation, leadership, responsibility and spirituality in addition to the physical and musical discipline needed to build a cohesive and dynamic taiko ensemble.
The training includes weekly practices and periodic workshops given by special guests. As well, the group regularly performs for events such as the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, Vancouver Folk Music Festival, Vancouver International Children’s Festival, Powell Street Festival, Taiko Jam 2007 at the North American Taiko Conference, corporate events, and fund raisers for numerous charitable organizations. Chibi was featured in a promotional video for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Sansho: A mildly hot Japanese seasoning made from the aromatic berries of the prickly ash tree, which are dried and ground into a powder. Also called szechuan pepper by the Chinese.*
Sansho Daiko The newest member of the Vancouver taiko community.
Formed in 2010, Sansho Daiko is a Vancouver-based taiko group that brings a fresh approach to an ancient art form. Drawing on both traditional and contemporary repertoire, the group creates a visual and aural experience that defies easy categorization and crosses ethnic and cultural boundaries. Like the plant it was named after, Sansho Daiko seeks to be a spicy addition to the west coast taiko scene.
The seven members of Sansho Daiko come from a variety of backgrounds and bring with them a wealth of experience. Individual members have played with other taiko groups including Katari Taiko, Uzume Taiko, Chibi Taiko, Steveston Tera Taiko, Gold Buddha Monastery Taiko, and Tokidoki Taiko. What they share is a love for taiko and the enjoyment that comes from being part of a cohesive group. Members who have played professionally bring their broad experience to the rest of the ensemble. Together they create a powerful and joyous sound that resonates long after the last beat has been played . . .
Formed in 1990, Sawagi Taiko is the first all-women’s taiko group in Canada. Sawagi Taiko pools their common and unique experiences as East Asian women living in Canada and focuses their creative energy and ideas into a powerful expression that is always heard and can’t be ignored. As a performing group, they are looking to smash hierarchies and create an environment where all their members can initiate and explore their artistic visions. Performing at community and corporate events, as well as in various festivals across North America, Sawagi Taiko offers an alternative to the stereotype of Asian women as quiet and demure, and strives to encourage cultural connections among different communities.
Vancouver Okinawa Taiko
Vancouver Okinawa Taiko, formerly known as Yuaikai Ryukyu Taiko, is an Okinawan taiko dance group that was formed in Metro Vancouver in 2004. The group wishes to be “ambassadors” of Okinawan folk performing art in which Okinawan style drumming and dancing combine together along with traditional as well as contemporary Okinawan music.
The group is inclusive, with a mix of generations. From youth as young as four years old to others in their 60s, the group’s members reflect a true presentation of grassroots folk art.
Vancouver Okinawa Taiko has performed at numerous multicultural festivals, neighbourhood charity shows, Japan night at the Mariner’s Safeco Field and the Cultural Olympiad 2008.