I’ve been up to lots of traveling these past few weeks, most recently a weekend in Palo Alto, CA for a performance with Kenny Endo, sharing a concert with two-time Grammy Nominated band Hiroshima.  I have a very intense three weeks in Japan coming up, and by the time things settle down for a bit, autumn will be upon us.



Saturday, Sept 6th @Fukushima Ongakudo Hall



Thursday, Sept 11
Resonance 2014@Super Deluxe


In 2007, while still serving as the artistic director for the world renowned Japanese performing arts group KODO, fue/flute player Kaoru Watanabe called together a group of friends to form Resonance, a one-night multimedia celebration of sight and sound that astounded the audience. Since that time, Resonance has become an ongoing series that continues to leverage the talents of original members as it adds new collaborators each time. With a stellar cast assembled for the sole purpose of creating new fusion and forms, Resonance 2014 promises to be another music and art experience that defies definition and engenders new expressions.

Open 19:00 / Start 20:00
Advance Reservation : ¥2,500
At the Door: ¥3,000 (+ 1Drink Charge)

* Just click “attending” on the facebook event page to be added to the Advance Reservation list. For reservations of 2 or more, please visit the SDLX event page.



Saturday, Aug 23rd @Tenri Cultural Institute
Sumie Kaneko + Kaoru Watanabe: Duo Plus


August/September Updates

Hello Friends,

The last couple of weeks have been an intense period of activity- three weekends ago, I was performing and teaching at the first ever World Taiko Gathering (WTG). WTG and the other such gatherings, such as North American Taiko Conference (NATC), Collegiate Taiko Invitational and the East Coast Taiko Conference (ECTC) are great opportunities to connect with old friends and make new ones.

I’ve been playing taiko since 1986 and attended the first NATC in 1997 while I was playing with Soh Daiko. This was also the year before I moved to Japan to become a Kodo apprentice.

The concerts at WTG were titled Taiko Nation and featured six different groups and individual artists. I had the great pleasure of performing with two of them, the virtuosic TaikOz from Australia (with whom Kenny Endo was also a special guest) as well as a trio made up of two veterans of Kodo, Chieko Kojima and Eiichi Saito and myself. It was interesting to recall the conference I attended in ’97, back before I really knew anything about the music, to almost two decades later in 2014 as an instructor and featured performer who is focused intently on the question of how to support and encourage the next generation of taiko players.

Another exciting development that was announced at WTG is the start of KaDON, an online resource for taiko and fue instruction presented by Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten, one of the most respected taiko makers in Japan. I am honored to be one of the three instructors featured on KaDON and I hope it turns out to be beneficial for as many people as possible. Please visit for more details about this.

Last week, the aforementioned Chieko Kojima visited New York for a week for a performance with me at Shapeshifter. Lab in Brooklyn as well as a three day intensive at my studio. Ten participants from Boston, Philadelphia and NY areas stayed over night while Mari cooked delicious meals with a handful of volunteers, Cathy Tio, Cassandra Huebenthal, Yumiko Higaki and Alex Pfister who donated time and energy and food.

Coming up after this is a lot of traveling but continuing with classes in NY when I’m in town.

Hope to see you all soon and enjoy the summer until then!




Friday, Aug 8 | 7:30pm – 9:00pm | $16
Sumie Kaneko @Regatta Bar (Boston)

Sumie Kaneko’s project J-Trad & More will present trio version with Kaoru Watanabe on Taiko and Fue, Yoshiki Yamada on Bass. New pieces will be played!. She is currently making new album with new instrumentation, you will see some of them. Must come!
1 Bennett Street, Cambridge MA, 02138.

Saturday, Aug 16 | 3:00pm
Palo Alto Buddhist Temple presents:
Hiroshima & Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble

Kenny Endo (taiko), Kaoru Watanabe (taiko, fue), Hiroshi Tanaka (taiko), Abe Lagrimas, Jr. (drums, vibraphone, ukulele)
More info TBA
Schultz Cultural Arts Hall at the Jewish Community Center
3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto, CA 94303

Saturday, Aug 23
Kaoru Watanabe and Sumie Kaneko at Tenri Cultural Institute (New York)

First duo concert with Kaoru Watanabe. Program will be mixture of Kaoru’s original, traditional piece, Sumie’s new compositions. More info TBA
43A West 13th Street, New York, 10011

Friday, Sept 5
Fukushima Ongakudo

More info TBA

Thursday, Sept 11
Resonance 2014@Super Deluxe

More info TBA

Summer Events and Projects

May 30-June 13th: Collaboration with Taikoz in Sydney, Australia


Greetings from Sydney,

I’m right in the middle of an intense two weeks in Australia working with the group TaikOz.  I’ve been really challenging them and myself with ambitious pieces and concepts and heavily relying on each member’s sense of composition, listening skills and improvisational prowess and the results have been great.  It’s been a pleasure working with them and getting to know them better.  Our concert is next Saturday and I can’t wait to see how far we’ve come by then!

In the meantime, I also have to continue planning for some very exciting upcoming projects.



May – Upcoming Performances

Hello friend and family,
Spring is fighting its way through the lingering cold here in New York. In just a few days, it seems it will finally warm up for good. There are a lot of great performances coming up both on the East and West Coast (and Down Under too!). Take a look below.


Charles B Wang Asian American Ctr @Stony Brook University, Long Island NY 
14th Annual Ryu Shu Kan Cherry Blossom Festival
Kaoru Watanabe, Ne-O Ensemble feat. Sumie Kaneko
Join us while we welcome Spring to Long Island the Japanese way with the exciting sounds of the Taiko Drums, the elegance of Japanese dance and music and a wondrous array of Japanese cultural exhibits and events for the entire family.
For information, please call Ryu Shu Kan: 631-698-2467
Charles. B. Wang Center: 631- 632-1944


Shapeshifter Lab, 18 Whitwell St., Brooklyn NY
Adam Rudolph’s GO: Organic Orchestra
50 Musicians: woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion
8:00 PM performance
7:00 PM workshop (public welcome to observe)
Music composed and improvisationally conducted by Adam Rudolph


Saint Johns the Divine, Manhattan NY
Flutes of Hope Concert
Featuring Ralph Samuelson, Steve Gorn and Kaoru Watanabe


Berkeley Buddhist Temple, Berkeley, CA
Satsuki Bazaar & Art Festival
with Kenny Endo Ensemble and Abe Lagrimas, Jr.


Los Angeles, CA
Convergence Duo w. Kenny Endo at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM)

I will be in Northern (East Bay) and Southern California (Los Angeles) during this time. I am available for private lessons. Inquire at

MAY 30 – JUNE 13, 2014
Sydney, Australia
Collaboration w. Taikoz
I will be acting as Artistic Director for a concert by the renowned taiko ensemble, Taikoz. I will send updates while I’m traveling – photos, journal and all. If you live or will be in Sydney during this time, I may be available for private lessons. Inquire at


JULY 18-20
Los Angeles, CA
World Taiko Gathering

JULY 18-20
Los Angeles, CA
World Taiko Gathering
I will be teaching workshops and performing in the concert with two Kodo members, the great Chieko Kojima and Eiichi Saito.  This is an amazing place to learn from some great instructors and to meet fellow taiko enthusiasts from all over the world.

JULY 11-12
Montreal, Canada
Longueuil’s International Percussion Festival
More information to come.

JULY 25-27
Kaoru Watanabe Taiko Center, Brooklyn
Hana-Hachijo Intensive Weekend Workshop with Chieko Kojima at KWTC
KWTC is proud to welcome Chieko back for an intensive three day workshop.  Participants can expect to learn in-depth about the movements, techniques, the songs, as well as philosophy behind Chieko’s signature piece Hana-hachijo as well as to spend time getting to know her and fellow taiko players.  Open to both male and female taiko players.  Please contact us for information and to reserve a spot (limited to 10 participants)


MAY 2nd & 3rd, Fri/Sat
Project IX – Pleiades
$30/$24 Japan Society members
Although I won’t be performing in this program nor will there be any taiko drumming in it, our friends at Japan Society are presenting a percussion-heavy multi-media performance that I encourage people to see!
Two Japanese tour de force artists, acclaimed musician Kuniko Kato, praised by Steve Reich as a “first rate percussionist,” and dancer Megumi Nakamura, internationally-known since her days with Jiří Kylián’s Netherlands Dance Theater, explore the mesmerizing scores of legendary 20th-century composer Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001). Project IX – Pleiades, which features one of Xenakis’ most complex and ambitious pieces, Pléiades, is a multimedia work delivered through live performance and a state-of-the-art sound/projection installation. Directed by Italian choreographer Luca Veggetti, one of the featured artists in the 2014 NY PHIL BIENNIAL.


4/13: 参 Sun Trio at ShapeShifter Lab


参 SUN Trio
Sunday, April 13th | 7pm | $10

Sun (参) Trio is comprised of Kaoru Watanabe and Tetsuro Naito, two former members of Kodo, the iconic taiko group from Japan, and Patrick Graham, an acclaimed, multifaceted Montreal-based percussionist. Featuring the taiko drums, Japanese bamboo flutes, and a host of percussion instruments from Japan, the Middle East and beyond, the music is an artful blend of power, delicacy and precision.

The character 参, or “san” (pronounced sə n) can refer to a surprising variety of things: “three”, “to participate”, “to pray”, “to be taken” and even “to fall in love”. The number 3 has profound significance in Japanese culture. With regards to taiko drums, drum heads are often adorned with the mitsudomoe a symbol with three tear drops chasing each other in a circle. The members of Sun Trio found this word represents the multifaceted nature of the music, at once sacred and profane, with a decidedly contemporary edge.

Tetsuro Naito- taiko drums
Patrick Graham – taiko drums, percussion
Kaoru Watanabe- Japanese flutes, taiko drums

ShapeShifter Lab
18 Whitwell Place, Brooklyn, NY 11215
R train to Union St

RSVP on the Facebook event page here.

Spring 2014 Update

Greetings friends.  Hope the warm weather is offering some reprieve from the endless bout of freezing temperatures and snow storms.
I’ve been busy with performances and have a few coming up- see below for details. I’ve also been busy with preparations for a handful of upcoming projects including intensive workshops by Tetsuro Naito, Patrick Graham and Shoji Kameda at my studio, performance by Ne-O Ensemble- a group I’ve been cultivating in my studio, workshops at Princeton, Brown and Wellesley, directing a concert in Australia in June, working with Chieko Kojima and Eiichi Saito of Kodo in July in LA, hosting Chieko at my studio in New York, and a Japan trip in the fall, etc.



Wednesday, March 12th | 7pm 
The Heart of Japan: An Evening of Kabuki Dance and Music
Jewett Art Center Auditorium, Wellesley College
The Heart of Japan: An Evening of Kabuki Dance and Music will present traditional Japanese dance by Ms. Michiko Kurata and Japanese instruments played by Mr. Kaoru Watanabe and Ms. Sumie Kaneko. A sushi reception will follow the performance. The performance will be preceded by a workshop on March 11, 5:00 PM-6:30 PM in the Alumnae Hall Ballroom. All are invited for a hands-on exploration of the Japanese instruments featured in the March 12 performance.
More info:


Sunday, March 23rd | 10pm | $15
Motions @ the Stone
Kaoru Watanabe (Japanese flutes, taiko) Chris Dingman (vibes) Tim Keiper (hunters harp, percussion) Matt Kilmer (percussion)
The four members of the Brooklyn-based collective Motions combine the rhythms, timbres, and melodies of their extensive and diverse musical backgrounds-traditional and contemporary musics from Japan, Mali, the Middle East, Brazil, and the US to create a unified sound that is both eclectic and organic.
the corner of avenue C and 2nd street, New York, NY 10009.
F train to Delancey or J,M to Essex St.
Regular Admission: $15 per set. Students 13 to 19: $10 per set at all times


Saturday, March 29th 
Ne-O Ensemble @ Shapeshifter lab
Details TBA.

February Shows


Tuesday, Feb 4th | 7-10pm
Washington DC with Sumie Kaneko
J-Trad & More will be featured by DC Jazz Festival Fishman Young Artist Series. Performing at the residence of Japan Embassy. Private event.
More info at


Friday-Saturday, Feb 7th and 8th
East Coast Taiko Conference, Skidmore College
Kaoru Watanabe will be giving workshops and performances at this year’s ECTC. More info here:


Sunday, Feb 9th | 3-4pm
Tenri Institute with Sachiyo Ito
Ma: Creating Sacred Space and Time, Here and Now
The prevailing theme of Salon Series in 2014 Season is “Ma,” the particular sense of space and time in Japanese arts and culture. The first in the program investigates Ma in creating sacred space and time through sutra chanting and writing, music and dance improvisation. Guest Artists: Kaoru Watanabe (flutist/drummer), Satoshi Takeishi (percussionist), Rev. Kenjitsu Nakagaki (Calligrapher)
Ticket: $15, $10 (Senior & Student)
Tenri Cultural Institute, 43A West 13th Street New York City, between 5th & 6th AvenueSS 48 Flyer

Saturday, Feb 22th | 12 & 2:30 pm
BAMcafe with Elena Moon Park
Two short shows at BAMcafé as part of BAMkids Film Festival. Take in some East Asian tunes between fun (mostly) animated all-ages shorts & feature films.
More info at and BAMkids
BAMcafe, Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217

Beauty Beyond Boundaries | Ricoh Theta Launch Party | Thurs. Jan. 16th

Thursday, Jan 16, 2014, 9pm-1am
Beauty Beyond Boundaries RICOH THETA Launch Party
@Villain in Williamsburg

Beauty Beyond Boundaries is a TokyoDex production, which will include an amazing array of artists and art installation. Please come join me and make sure to RSVP at

50 N. 3rd St, New York, NY 11249

Happy New Year 2014

Friends and Family,

I hope the arrival of 2014 brings all of you with prospects of a renewed endeavor towards, most importantly, health and happiness and, if necessary, prosperity!

For me, 2013 was full of change, growth and adventure - all I could really hope for.  I had the pleasure of performing in various projects led by such artists as Adam Rudolph, Imani Uzuri, Alicia Hall Moran, Skye Steele, Tamango, Sumie Kaneko, Elena Moon Park, Shane Shanahan, On Ensemble and Maureen Fleming.


Imani Uzuri @ Joe’s Pub w. Marika Hughes, Christian Ver Halen, Todd Isler and Neel Murgai


motown project with Alicia Hall Moran

I led or co-led groups which included such wonderful folks as Kenny Endo, Ryutaro Kaneko, Tetsuro Naito, Daniel Rosen, Isaku Kageyama, Satoshi Takeishi, Ralph Samuelson, Akihito Obama, So Percussion, Shoji Kameda, Kyo Daiko, Matt Kilmer, Chris Dingman, Tim Keiper, Barbara Merjan, Marika Hughes, Sarah Schoenbeck and many many others.


Music from Japan with Kenny Endo, March 2013


Wesleyan Taiko


Tohoku Caravan Tour w. Daniel Rosen, Tetsuro Naito, Ryutaro Kaneko, Tsubasa Horii, April 2013


Asia Society w. Ralph Samuelson, Sumie Kaneko and Akihito Obama


On stage at Lincoln Center Out of Doors concert, August 2013


So Percussion and the Joshua Light Show, River to River Festival, July 2013


Motions (incl. Chris Dingman, Tim Keiper, Matt Kilmer) @ Blue Note

Musical adventures took me to Barbados, Trinidad, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and here and there across the US.  InNew York, I performed in such venues as the Shapeshifter Lab, Joe’s Pub, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Delacorte Theater, Highline Ballroom, The Stone, Blue Note, Brooklyn Bowl, Cornelia Street Cafe and Le Poisson Rouge.  A special thanks to Taikoz, Japan Foundation, Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten, Ranjo flutes, Asano Taiko U.S., amongst many other others for their continued support and collaboration. 


Taikoz in Australia


Barbados and Trinidad w. Isaku Kageyama through Japan Foundation, January 2013


The Tempest, Shakespeare in the Park @ the Delacorte Theater, September 2013


Joe’s Pub w. Kenny Endo, Dec 2013


Visiting Ranjo (fue maker) in Chiba, Japan

In mid-summer, a long held dream of having my own dedicated studio was realized after weeks of soundproofing, flooring, and other work.  Since fall of 2013, I’ve been holding classes, workshops and rehearsals in the studio and am planning to greatly expand activities there in 2014.


Taiko studio – before renovation


Taiko studio – after renovation

On a personal note, the biggest news of 2013 was the birth of my daughter Shinobu on August 9th.  My relationship with Mari has gotten stronger as we are focussed on each other’s health and happiness in a much more determined and conscious way.  Shinobu comes to a lot of my shows and has gained notoriety for having a great disposition and laughing all the time.  She is light and joy and we are so grateful for her presence.

Looking ahead to 2014, I want to continue studying, performing and composing in a more focussed manner – time is much more limited with Shinobu around!  I thank everyone for their continued support and friendship and look forward to seeing you all in the New Year.

Happy New Year to all! Looking forward to sharing many more adventures in 2014.

In gratitude and sincerity,
Kaoru Watanabe

Dec 28: Motions & Bonenkai @ Shapeshifter Lab


Saturday, 28th Dec 2013 | 8PM | $10

MOTIONS featuring: Chris Dingman, Matt Kilmer, Tim Keiper, Kaoru Watanabe

BONENKAI featuring: KAORU WATANABE TAIKO ENSEMBLE, Sumie Kaneko, Barbara Merjan, Fumi Tanakadate + SPECIAL GUESTS

The four members of the Brooklyn-based collective Motions, combine the rhythms, timbres and melodies from their extensive and diverse musical backgrounds – traditional and contemporary musics from Japan, Mali, the Middle East, Brazil and the US to create a unified sound that is both eclectic and organic. The music seamlessly ranges from abstract improvisation to heavy groove, highlighting the flavors and qualities of the different instruments while celebrating their universality.

ShapeShifter Lab
18 Whitwell Place, Brooklyn, New York 11215

More info on ShapeShifter Lab’s website here.
RSVP on the Facebook event here.