THE KAORU WATANABE TAIKO CENTER preserves, teaches, and promotes the art of taiko (Japanese drumming), shares elements of Japanese music and culture with students, and creates community among taiko players, musicians, and others. Taiko, which literally means simply “drum” (any drum) in Japanese, is also used to refer to the use of Japanese drums, and to particular musical practices common to those drums both in Japan and elsewhere. Taiko is a dynamic, accessible, and powerful art form that has a large and growing following in the United States.
Taiko has roots both as a living folk art and in classical traditions; and the music and associated choreography has evolved to be used in many forms ranging from grassroots community celebrations to sophisticated jazz compositions. In Japan, there are many local festivals which for generation after generation have featured taiko. These can serve as a profound means for building energy, unifying groups of people, and inspiring individuals to push their own limits in creating something greater for a community. This spirit often carries across to taiko’s practice in the U.S., and embodies some of the special value in preserving and developing this art form.
ABOUT KAORU WATANABE
Kaoru Watanabe is a practitioner of various Japanese transverse bamboo flutes, the taiko drum as well as Western flute. His music can be best described as an ever shifting blend of the folk and classical traditions of Japan with contemporary improvisational and experimental music.
Kaoru was born in St. Louis, MO to symphony musician parents. In 1997, after graduating from the Manhattan School of Music with a BFA in jazz flute and saxophone performance and performing with New York’s Soh Daiko, Kaoru moved to Japan and joined the internationally renowned taiko drum ensemble Kodo. Based in Sado Island in the Niigata prefecture, Kaoru toured across the globe with Kodo, performing the taiko, traditional Japanese folk dance and song, and especially the various fue (bamboo flute) such as the noh kan, ryuteki and shinobue. From 2005 to 2007, Kaoru served as one of Kodo’s artistic directors, focussing on their world music festival Earth Celebration. During this festival, he directed shows that combined music, dance, and visual arts and that featured such luminaries as Zakir Hussain, Giovanni Hildalgo, Carlos Nunez, jazz pianist Yosuke Yamashita and casts comprised of West African stilt dancers, tap and contemporary dancers, traditional Japanese folk dance, live calligraphy, break dance, capoeira and of course the taiko. Also during and since his time with Kodo, Kaoru worked closely with legendary Kabuki actor Bando Tamasaburo, an experience that had a profound effect on his artistic growth.
In late 2006 Kaoru left Kodo and returned to NY to teach and continue performing fue, western flute and taiko in a variety of musical and artistic settings. Recent projects have taken him across the US, Canada, Japan, Mongolia, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Trinidad, Honduras, Argentina, Australia, and Puerto Rico.
Kaoru Watanabe's Website: http://www.watanabekaoru.com
The taiko center could not exist without the generous support of Kenny Endo, On Ensemble, Lenora Lee, Ariel Shearman, Gerry Senese and Ryushu Taiko.
Special thanks to Ranjo, Miyamoto Unosuke Taiko Shoten, KODO Arts Sphere America (KASA) and The Village@Gureje.