SAKURA SATURDAY – April 15, 2023 (IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE)
Hoh Daiko Drummers of Seabrook, New Jersey was established on February 23, 1991 under the auspices of the Seabrook Buddhist Temple. It chose Hoh Daiko for its name meaning the way of the drums. The group began by using discarded tires and plastic garbage cans as practice instruments and on the drum made for them by the Reverend Ron Miyamura of Chicago. Their dedication soon found the group making its own taiko (drum) from whiskey and wine barrels, learning the difficult traditional folk art from Soh Daiko of New York (the first taiko group on the East Coast). They also had many workshops with their mentors, the Soh Daiko Drummers. Hoh Daiko also has been taught by Yoshikazu Fujimoto of Kodo and from taiko masters such as Kenny Endo, San Jose Taiko, as well as masters from Japan. Charter member Tamiko Ooka after two years in Japan has trained and introduced new techniques to the group.
Karen Smith Trio
Karen “Magic Fingaz” Smith, Brooklyn Native, Philly Resident, is a Professional Percussionist, Playwright, Poet, Teaching Artist, Curator and now Pie-Maker!!! Karen is a recipient of several grants including Leeway Foundation’s Art and Change and Illuminate the Arts Grants . Ms. Smith is the Founder, Artistic Director and Lead Percussionist of Weez the Peeples and Sistahs Laying Down Hands Collectives. The opportunities continue to grow with a stellar list of artistry that she has provided rhythms, including Sister Sonia Sanchez, Ursula Rucker, TC Carson, Debbie Allen, Steadman Graham, Toshi Reagan and Founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock, Bernice Johnson Reagon to name a few as well as being that “Go To” percussionist for other theatrical productions for First World Theatre Ensemble,Theatre in the X, Desales University Performing Arts, Quintessence Theatre Company, Lantern Theatre Company, South Camden Theatre Company, Delaware Shakespeare Company and Hedgerow Theatre Company. Besides her percussionist presence on YOUTUBE, Karen has released her first CD project in 2020 entitled, “Spiritual Atmosferic Cleansing” that can be found on all the digital music distribution sites and the second CD will be released this past September entitled, “Spiritual Hush”. 2022 also premiered her plays, “Pocketbook Diaries” and “Awoke the Musical ” as part of the Fringe Festival. “Awoke” presents a look at mass incarceration and how there’s a pipeline between the public school system and the prison system. “Possible is Possible ” is my daily mantra!
KyoDaiko is a community taiko drumming ensemble based in the Philadelphia area. Our members are volunteers who perform for love of the art and the energy that the great drums bring us. We perform regularly at a variety of events: from school and community festivals, to Phillies baseball games, Japanese festivals (like D.C.’s National Cherry Blossom Festival), to more unusual gigs like roller derbies and dragon boat regattas. KyoDaiko was founded in 2005. The group was originally led by Kristopher Rudzinski, who studied with Marco Lienhard of Taikoza in New York. KyoDaiko’s membership comes from a wide variety of backgrounds, and continues to grow with new students and continuing players. Members attend regular classes throughout the year and participate in workshops with master teachers from around the world.
Rino Aise, a native of Japan, is a performer of drama and music, particularly for peace. Rino initially studied Minyo (folk songs) with Ryushu Kubota, the highest teacher of the Hokkaido Folk Song Federation and, then, started playing sanshin, a traditional Okinawa instrument, to pursue her music career, singing folk songs, anime songs and original songs in the U.S. and Japan.
Gabe Preston Sounds
GPS is an experimental fusion jazz project based in Philadelphia, led by woodwind multi-instrumentalist and composer Gabe Preston, hence “Gabe Preston Sounds.” Primarily playing original music written by Preston, the band draws a variety of influences between 60’s/70’s jazz, nu jazz, avant-garde, hip-hop, R&B, and even prog rock. While the core of the band is woodwinds with effects, keyboard, bass, drums, and percussion, GPS will also sometimes incorporate other layers like trombone and rap vocals. The essence of the band is, regardless of whether or not the instrumentation or set changes every show, GPS is always willing to explore something new to allow the music go into different directions, especially if it means reaching the hearts of different crowds all looking to appreciate music in some avenue. Their debut album, [to the stratosphere], released on all streaming platforms in August 2022, and is set to have a vinyl release in the near future, with t-shirts of the album cover already available for sale.
Brieze Thompson, aka Badd Kitti, is pioneer of Philadelphia’s emerging Funk scene. She’s known for a soulful, conscious vibe derived from the many flavors of Funk’s classic era. Her contributions to Funk are not only as keyboardist, vocalist and composer, but as producer, educator and as creator and host of the syndicated radio show/podcast, The Funk Excursion. With her debut single, ‘WTF (What the Funk)’, Badd Kitti pays homage to the forefathers of Jazz-Funk, such as Herbie Handcock, Donald Byrd and Roy Ayers; artists who have had a huge influence on her music.
Casual Fifth is the part-time performance company of Alex Pfister and Mac Evans. Alex and Mac started practicing modern dance and taiko drumming in college, have continued studying in performing in New York City, and now reside in Philadelphia. Casual Fifth is the joint venture of Alex and Mac and the friends, mentors, and mentees they’ve made along the way.
Brown Rice Family
Brown Rice Family is today’s freshest world roots band jamming towards global solidarity and organic happiness. Guided by a strong belief in the natural flow of things, BRF provides the masses with a distinctively organic World Roots Music, which encompasses reggae, hip-hop, dancehall, afro beat, jazz stylings, rock, brazilian, Latin, and funk. The band was formed while its members were attending the City College of New York. The band began to grow and is presently comprised of eight members hailing from all over the world—Japan, Jamaica, Haiti, Nigeria, South Africa and USA. The members’ diverse national backgrounds set the stage for their unique coexistence, their musical creativity and dance. The BRF sound is in the truest sense of the words, World Roots Music. BRF’s colorful sound waves will carry rhythm surfers on a musical journey that straddles ancient and contemporary global sounds.
SAKURA SUNDAY – April 16, 2023 (IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE)
Tamagawa Daigaku Taiko
Tamagawa University Dance and Taiko Group has been touring the world since 1961, visiting Mexico, England, Greece, Canada, Malaysia, Russia, Indonesia, Africa, and the United States. The troupe has toured extensively in East Coast since 2003, including performances at the Kennedy Center, the National Cherry Blossom Festival., the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia, and the NBA Half-time show at the Wachovia Center.
Yosakoi – 10tecomai
Yosakoi Dance Project – 10tecomai (tentecomai) is a New York City based Dance Company which has been performing the Japanese dance style of “Yosakoi” since 2005 across the United States. Yosakoi, a dance style which originated in Japan over 60 years ago, is a wonderful fusion of traditional Japanese movements/music with movements from other cultures and genres of performance. Its highly energetic, uplifting and positive style of dance resonates with audiences of every age and culture.
Acaraje is a Samba Reggae Community Drumming Bloco who drums against racism and oppression. Samba Reggae is a genre of music that comes from the streets of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. Created in the 1970s as a mix of Brazilian Samba and Jamaican Reggae by Neguinho do Samba (Father of Samba Reggae), this music can be called an extension of the Black Pride Movement and sought to return Samba to its African roots and identity. Samba Reggae was first publicly played in 1974 by an Afro Bloco called Ilê Aiyê.
New York based multi-instrumentalist Masaru Koga, or Mas, as most would call him, developed his worldview at an early age. Soon after his birth in Chiba Japan, his family relocated to the US due to his father’s work, and spent his adolescent years moving around multiple times. By the time he graduated high school, he had lived in three different countries and nine different cities. Mas has had the privilege of working with luminaries such as Fred Ho, Akira Tana, Anthony Brown, Mark Izu, Wayne Wallace and Kenny Endo, as well as his mentors Hafez Modirzadeh and royal hartigan. In addition to performing, Mas is an experienced educator. Aside from private instruction, he has taught at California Jazz Conservatory, and also conducted workshops domestically and internationally. Mas’s sound encompasses the many cultural traditions he’s been touched by, and the worldview developed though diverse life experiences. He aims to create music that respects traditions and goes beyond styles and idioms, and ultimately help diminish all forms of social boundaries.
Yoko Nakahashi Fellowship Ensemble
Also known by her buddhist name Laiyo, Yoko Nakahashi is ASCAP award winning contemporary composer, founder of Navy Yard Taiko, and taiko instructor for various institutions. Her composition has been performed by Neos Quartet, JACK Quartet, Taiko Masala, and many well-received musicians such as a Decimette lead by David Del Tredici. Laiyo has been appearing on WPIX, NY1 News, Fox5, and many others. Yoko has been internationally performing as a taiko drummer in various location such as USA, Japan, UK, Barbados et al. She has been certified to teach Osuwa Daiko music to various levels of taiko players. Yoko has been writing music and performing live sound effects for many theater groups, martial arts troops, and dance companies, as well as performing with groups and giving workshops internationally. Yoko is an official taiko instructor of Columbia Taiko, Brooklyn Nijinokakehashi Japanese Cultural Center, Biwanko, and guest instructor for schools and community based taiko groups, 2017 and 2019 NATC, and 2020 ECTC workshop leader, and she is a regular member of Taiko Masala the Brooklyn based taiko drumming company since 2006.
Swarthmore Taiko Ensemble
Through the contemporary performance art of Taiko drumming that stems from both Japan and its cultural diaspora, Swarthmore Taiko Ensemble (STE) aims to provide students and the community-at-large a greater understanding and appreciation of Japanese and Asian-American arts, cultural identities, and traditions. With attention to artistic rigor, STE members study and perform contemporary and folk-based taiko drumming works that underscore fundamental artistic relationships between dance and music. Established in 2000-2001 by Prof. Kim Arrow and interested students out of the Drum and Dance Ensemble course, STE is a for-credit course in the Swarthmore College Dance Program. Professional taiko artist and Assistant Professor of Dance Joe Small has directed STE since 2018.