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On Ensemble

  • Taiko Drummers

Concerts: On Ensemble, Taiko Adventure 

Established in 2002 On Ensemble is one of the most respected ensembles in the taiko (Japanese drumming) world. Led by childhood friends Shoji Kameda and Masato (Maz) Baba, On Ensemble is recognized for infusing the powerful rhythms of taiko with a wide range of musical influences from jazz and rock to central asian overtone singing. Their fearless musical exploration has expanded the artistic range of the taiko and has taken these ancient instruments into new realms. The group’s unique sound has been praised as “completely original and brilliantly conceived.” Modern Drummer magazine calls On Ensemble “an exciting taiko ensemble looking at new ways to apply traditional Japanese drums.” 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.

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. 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. Together with the other members of On Ensemble they combine their study and deep appreciation of Japanese traditional music with equally formative experiences as DJs, electronic music producers, and rock bassists to produce, record and perform some of the most compelling and creative taiko music. 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.

From outdoor festivals and large concert halls to intimate art spaces, On Ensemble shares its unique music with audiences both young and old. The group tours regularly to large metropolitan areas and small rural communities and has a 10 year history of touring and performing. Past performances include the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts (Cerritos, CA), the Maui Arts and Cultural Center and University of Hawai’i Hilo (HI), California Worldfest (Grass Valley, CA), Chico World Music Festival (Chico, CA), Athenaeum Theater and the Old Town School of Music (Chicago), Grand Performances and the Aratani Theater in downtown Los Angeles, Shibuya O-nest (Tokyo), National Theater of Japan (Tokyo), Freight and Salvage (Berkeley, CA), Edmonds Center for the Arts (WA), Juan De Fuca Festival (WA) the Oregon Bach Festival (Eugene, OR), an Ohio Arts Council IMPACT tour with performances in Medina, Archbold, Cincinnati and Urbana (OH), a tour of Montana and Idaho with stops in Mountain Home, Salmon, Sandpoint, Dillon, Missoula, Helena and Whitefish.

In 2005 On Ensemble released its first studio album Dust and Sand to critical acclaim. The independently produced album spent several months on the New Age Reporter charts reaching as high as number three in October of 2005 and received national airplay. In 2007 the ensemble released their first live CD and a DVD of their performance at the Cerritos Center. In 2009 On Ensemble released its second critically acclaimed studio album Ume In the Middle. In 2010 the group collaborated with director Sam Koji Hale to create a short film based on the On Ensemble track “Yamasong” from the album Ume in the Middle. The film was produced by Heather Henson and was screened at over 30 film festivals winning Best Fantasy Short and Best Animated Film at the Dragon*Con Independent Film Festival. In 2013 the group released their third studio album titled Bizarre Heroes and was invited to perform at the prestigious Nihon no Taiko concert at the National Theater of Japan. Shoji is currently working on the soundtrack for a full length “Yamasong” film production and the group is composing material for an upcoming album.

For all of their avant-garde musical explorations, 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.

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