The Kaoru Watanabe Taiko Center preserves, teaches, and promotes the art of Japanese taiko drumming, shares elements of Japanese music and culture with students, and creates community among taiko players, musicians, and others. Taiko, which means simply “drum” in Japanese. Modern day taiko drumming 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.
Since August of 2008, the Kaoru Watanabe Taiko Center (KWTC) has been holding classes, workshops, student recitals and other events in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Modern day taiko drumming is both a physical and musical art form – a performer must have a dancer’s grace, an athlete’s stamina and a musician’s rhythm. Students at KWTC explore multiple ways to develop their physical and spiritual understanding of the performance of taiko. KWTC also frequently holds community gatherings that present taiko players alongside musicians from other genres and cultural traditions.
KWTC is founded by Kaoru Watanabe, a former member and artistic director of the world-renowned taiko ensemble KODO. Born in the US to Japanese parents, Kaoru is a graduate from Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan and the Manhattan School of Music and has performed and recorded with Stefon Harris and Jason Moran on Blue Note Records, among others. Kaoru was also a member of New York’s Soh Daiko, the East Coast’s oldest and most respected taiko group.
Kaoru lived in Japan for nearly a decade, engaging in the intensive study of Japanese music. In Tokyo he studied Noh Kan (flute used in Noh and Kabuki theater) with Hiroyuki Matsuda, and the fue (bamboo flute) music of Edo Matsuri Bayashi with Kiyosuke Kobayashi. In 1998 Kaoru became an apprentice with the drumming ensemble Kodo, a world-renowned group that is largely responsible for bringing taiko to an international audience. Kaoru eventually became a performing member of Kodo, with whom he drummed, danced, sang and played his fue across the globe, and in 2005 became Artistic Director of Earth Celebration, Kodo’s annual world music festival held on Sado Island every summer. Since moving back to New York City, Kaoru continues to make music on the fue, flute and taiko in a variety of settings, and to teach through the Kaoru Watanabe Taiko Center as well as such institutions as Princeton University, Wesleyan University and Colby College.
The taiko center could not exist without generous support from Kenny Endo, On Ensemble, Lenora Lee, Ariel Sherman, Gerry Senise and Ryushu Taiko in lending us long term their precious taiko.
Also, special thanks goes to Ranjo, Miyamoto Unosuke Taiko Shoten, KODO Arts Sphere America (KASA) and The Village@Gureje.
We are located in Brooklyn, New York. We are postponing classes for the remainder of Winter 2013 as we transition to a new home, but please email us in the meantime at firstname.lastname@example.org.