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Kaoru Watanabe: a rare musician who traverses the traditional music forms both East and West, classical and contemporary, predetermined and improvisational. His expertise in taiko drumming and bamboo flutes gives his music both force with extreme delicacy. His superb musicianship makes him a joy to create with. He enriches any musical situation with his unique perspective.
— Jason Moran (Jazz Pianist, Blue Note Recording Artist)
 

Greetings from Anchorage, Alaska!

I had a concert with Yoshikazu Fujimoto and Chieko Kojima of Kodo a few days ago at the Alaska Performing Arts Center. For those of you who don't know who they are, Chieko and Yoshikazu are members of the original Ondekoza group, as well as founding members of Kodo. They are legendary in the world of contemporary taiko and dance and after spending ten years on the road with them, they are like family to me. I hadn't performed with Chieko san in about two years and haven't worked with Yoshikazu san in about five. 

At one point in the concert, Chieko san and I improvised for about ten minutes together- listening, watching, reacting to the others movements and sounds. The performance had many sections- slow to fast and everything in between, ebbs and flows and moments of sheer silence- all of it unplanned. 

The day after the concert, our hosts, a local taiko group called Tomodachi Daiko took us camping and to see the glaciers. Yoshikazu san and I ended up at one point alone tending to a fire for about an hour. The sky was as bright as dusk although it was well past midnight. All in all, it was wonderful catching up with these old friends and sharing the stage with them. 

Chieko will be teaching at my Brooklyn studio in October this year and we will be performing together October 9th. More info on that to come.

Coming up for me in the meantime, a few different projects. First up, a multi-disciplinary opera and film by old/new friend Leyna Marika P. called Song, running at Here Theater June 29th through July 2nd. I say old/new because I only formally met her in recent years although our parents have known each other for decades. As usual, I will be playing fue, taiko and a god-like fox character. The opera will also feature Kamala Sankaram, Ava Mendoza and others. Please check out this link to support! 

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/song--2#/  

I am proud to be a part of Simone Leigh's The Waiting Room at the New Museum. 

Each week, eight young adults from the Hetrick-Martin Institute, an organization that provides services for LGBTQ youth and is an ongoing partner of the New Museum, will meet to make drums and learn taiko drumming with musician Kaoru Watanabe.

http://www.newmuseum.org/exhibitions/view/simone-leigh-the-waiting-room

I will be performing with Sumie Kaneko at Tenri Cultural Center on July 8th.


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