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On Ensemble

with Sumie Kaneko and Kaoru Watanabe

Saturday / February 7, 2015 / 7:00pm

Sheer exuberance and spirituality of approach push the On Ensemble to the forefront of a growing artistic movement in the Taiko world. On Ensemble will share a program with musicians Kaoru Watanabe and Sumie Kaneko as part of the inaugural ARATANI World series of global music and dance. The series celebrates the songs, sounds and dance of seven ensembles both local and international from Africa, India, Hawaii, Philippines, Japan, Bulgaria, Latin America, Central Java, Brazil, New York and Los Angeles who are carrying forth and transforming their rich cultural traditions.

Founded by childhood friends Shoji Kameda and Masato (Maz) Baba, On Ensemble has forged a new path for the art form by combining their study and deep appreciation of Japanese traditional music, then infusing the powerful rhythms of taiko with a myriad of musical influences ranging from rock and electronica to odd meter grooves, soaring melody and central asian overtone singing. Shoji and Maz were taught taiko at an early age (8 and 6) by Maz’ parents, accomplished taiko players and jazz musicians Jeanne Mercer and Russel Baba, who started one of the first children’s taiko groups in the United States. The duo has been playing and making music together for over 30 years and are recognized as two of the brightest stars in the taiko world.

The group has released three critically acclaimed albums, Dust and Sand, Ume in the Middle and Bizarre Heroes and their music was featured in the award winning short film Yamasong.

. . . On Ensemble propel the art form into mesmerizing territory with a swirling amalgamation of flutes, koto, turntables, and Tuvan throat singing astride propulsive poly-rhythmic drum patterns . . . completely original and brilliantly conceived . . . ” (Brian Moore, TransformOnline)

On Ensemble is supported by one of Japan’s most important traditional-culture bearers, Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten, instrument maker to the emperor of Japan. This support empowers On Ensemble to utilize authentic, rare Japanese instruments in its fearless exploration of taiko. In 2013 On Ensemble was the first American taiko group to be invited to perform at the National Theater of Japan for the prestigious Nihon no Taiko concert series

New York based Kaoru Watanabe and Sumie Kaneko are accomplished artists in their own right who share On Ensemble’s drive to create new artistic possibilities for traditional Japanese instruments. Kaoru Watanabe is North America’s most accomplished shinobue (bamboo flute) virtuoso masterfully incorporates Jazz melodies and improvisation with Japanese folk and classical traditions. Watanabe is a former member and artistic director the renowned KODO taiko ensemble. Singer songwriter Sumie Kaneko blends her koto and shamisen training from Tokyo National of Fine Arts with a background in Jazz vocal performance from Berklee College of Music. Together with On Ensemble these artists transverse boundaries effortlessly and create music that speaks across generations and cultures.

Pre-performance Conversation: Johnny Mori, Musician and Arts Educator

Aratani Theatre

Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC)
244 South San Pedro Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012


Meet the Artists