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Weblog of Kaoru Watanabe, NY based Flute/Fue player

Happy New Year!

kaoru watanabe

Happy New Year to one and all!

As 2014 comes to an end, I'm feeling immense gratitude for all the people who've given me the opportunity to share my music and art. Trying to make a living in New York as an artist is a constant challenge- full of instability, doubt and frustration and having a young child to support makes things that much more complicated. However, all these challenges only makes one's resolve stronger and the rewards that much sweeter.

This year, I had the great pleasure to perform with a wide variety of artists including Elena Moon Park, Sachiyo Ito, Sumie Kaneko, Shane Shanahan, Kenny Endo, Motions with Tim Keiper, Matt Kilmer and Chris Dingman, Adam Rudolph, Tetsuro Naito, Patrick Graham, TaikOz, So Percussion, Hadi Eldebek, Ned Rothenberg, Jerome Harris, Samm Bennett, On Ensemble, Abe Lagrimas, Chieko Kojima and Eichi Saito from Kodo, Semba Kiyohiko, Kaori Takahashi, Ralph Samuelson, Steve Gorn, Tamango, Shogo Yoshi, Satoshi Takeishi, Shoko Nagai and Jonathan Goldberger, Ne-O Ensemble, Gutbucket and Marvin Sewell with performances in Sydney, Tokyo and Fukushima, Montreal, Puerto Rico, LA, SF, NY and DC. I taught another semester at Princeton University, did workshops and performances through such organizations as the Silk Road Project, Midori and Friends, the Japanese Consulate, Music From Japan and others.

In terms of my educational activities, my taiko school, the Kaoru Watanabe Taiko Center (KWTC) enjoyed the first full year in our Crown Heights space.  Besides teaching weekly classes, we hosted three weekend long intensives, led by Tetsuro Naito and Patrick Graham, Kazuhiro and Hidenori Tsumura from Miyake Island and Chieko Kojima from Kodo, as well as two workshops by Shoji Kameda from On Ensemble. Also, I'm proud to be one of the instructors for kaDON, an online taiko and fue instructional series presented by one of the most respected taiko makers in Japan, Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten.    

As for some things that I'm looking forward to in 2015, performances in LA and Japan in the Spring and some fun touring in the fall. Also, I'll be teaching alongside and performing with Yo Yo Ma and other inspiring artists in June as part of the Silk Road Projects Global Musician Workshop. I've been composing a lot recently and am starting to see new directions that my music is heading in.

Besides all the people mentioned above, I'm thankful for Ranjo, the man responsible for making all of my amazing shinobue bamboo flutes for his continued support, guidance and friendship.  None of my activities would be possible without my wonderful family stretched wide across the US and Japan.  

Most importantly, I give thanks to my wife Mari and daughter Shinobu for their sacrifice, their fire and love.

Happy New Year to all!


Last performance of the year!

kaoru watanabe

This is the first time I'm posting directly to my new website- I'm still figuring out how to add pictures and move things around with catastrophically altering the original layout.  Thanks for visiting this page and please continue to do so.  Please contact me and I will try my best to respond.  I also promise to try to keep things up to date and post often.

SO, I have a few pieces of news that I'm very excited about.

1) The upcoming show at Shapeshifter featuring Satoshi Takeishi, Shoko Nagai and Jonathan Goldberger and members of Ne-O

2) I have been asked to be one of the faculty of the Global Musican Workshop (GMW) next summer at Depaul University. GMW is presented by Silk Road Project and among the faculty will be Yo Yo Ma himself.  Very excited to be a part of this.  Info here.  

3) kaDON, an online Taiko and Fue video resource that I'm honored to be a part of is offering a year-end shimedaiko give away. Please go here for more info.  

November Activities

Bryce Craig

Hello friends!

Among a few performances I have this month, I’m excited to announce that Motions, a collective of Matt Kilmer, Tim Keiper, Chris Dingman and myself, has been asked to extend a residency at the great East Village spot Nublu on Sunday nights. We will be presenting compositions by all four members as well as improvisations.

I’m also excited to working with old friend from high school Ty Citerman and his great band Gutbucket during their residency at the Stone as well as a few concerts featuring my Japanese music Ne-O Ensemble. Check out the Calendar for all upcoming shows!





August/September Updates

Jin Jin Chiu

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

Jin Jin Chiu

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

Jin Jin Chiu


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.



June/July activities

Mari Nakano

Hello friends, This Sunday, June 19th starting at 6 pm, my new ensemble will be doing an open final run-through for a show we're doing in Minneapolis. This group features Damion Reid, Barbara Merjan and myself on taiko, percussion and fue and Tamango tap dancing. We are mixing up hogaku and festival drumming styles and mixing it up with jazz improvisation and dance in pretty crazy ways. Please come out and see what all the noise is all about!

Where Renate Albertsen-Marton Gallery - The Village@Gureje 886 Pacific Street Brooklyn, NY 11238 (Btw. Underhill Ave and Washington Aves in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn) To call for directions: 718-857-2522

June 23, 24, 25, 26 Minneapolis Mu Daiko presents: Kaoru Watanabe New Ensemble with Damion Reid, Barbara Merjan and Tamango

June 29th Washington DC Japan Information and Cultural Center Japan Embassy Solo Fue/Taiko performance

July 3rd New York Kaoru/Birthday/Taiko/Celebration!! TBA Gureje starting 4 pm

July 5th New York HIMIZUKAZE - Japan Fundraising Concert- see flier below Tenri Cultural Center 8:30 pm $10 with Mana Hashimoto (dance) Sadahiro Kakitani (ryuteki) and others

July 16, 20, 21, 23 Creative Walks Participants will be blindfolded and taken through a series of conscious heightening experiences, while being serenaded with taiko and fue in Prospect Park

May - Upcoming Performances

Mari Nakano

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.


MAY 3, SATURDAY 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


MAY 12, MONDAY 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


MAY 15, THURSDAY Saint Johns the Divine, Manhattan NY Flutes of Hope Concert Featuring Ralph Samuelson, Steve Gorn and Kaoru Watanabe


MAY 18, SUNDAY Berkeley Buddhist Temple, Berkeley, CA Satsuki Bazaar & Art Festival with Kenny Endo Ensemble and Abe Lagrimas, Jr.


MAY 23, FRIDAY Los Angeles, CA Convergence Duo w. Kenny Endo at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM)

MAY 17-24, California - AVAILABLE FOR PRIVATE LESSONS 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

___________________________________________ ON THE HORIZON

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)

___________________________________________ OTHER EVENTS

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

Jin Jin Chiu

fb-header 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

Jin Jin Chiu

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

Jin Jin Chiu


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

Happy New Year 2014

Mari Nakano

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.



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.








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. 






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.



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

Jin Jin Chiu

motions2 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.

Sunday, Dec 1st @ Joe's Pub

Mari Nakano

Sunday, Dec 1st | 7:30pm Kenny Endo, Kaoru Watanabe and Sumie Kaneko @ Joe's Pub KWKE-1024x678

Kenny Endo and Kaoru Watanabe, both considered leading practitioners of their instruments, respectively the Japanese taiko drum and flutes, celebrate their CD Convergence, with guest artist Sumie Kaneko on koto and shamisen. Their music draws on Japanese theater and folk traditions with jazz and other improvisational genres to create a sound that is ancient with a modern edge. Tickets are on sale now! Get them here. RSVP on our Facebook event here.

425 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10003