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Style: Folsom | El Dorado Hills

Kenny Endo Celebrates 40 Years of Taiko at the Harris Center in Folsom

Oct 21, 2015 02:18PM ● Published by David Norby


 What:   Kenny Endo Contemporary Taiko Ensemble 40th Anniversary Tour

When:   Thursday, October 22, 2015 at 7:30 pm

Where: Harris Center for the Arts at Folsom Lake College 10 College Parkway Folsom, CA 95630

Price: $19-$39; Premium $45

Tickets are available online at or from Harris Center Ticket Office at
916-608-6888 from noon to 6 pm, Monday through Saturday, and two hours before show time.

As a jazz percussionist and early innovator in Japanese taiko, Kenny Endo’s adventurous spirit stretches the taiko genre incorporating influences like funk, jazz, Afro-Cuban & Hawaiian, with roots firmly grounded in tradition. His performances are nuanced, brilliant, and exciting! 

For his 40th Anniversary, he will tour with his Contemporary Ensemble – taiko, vibes, drums, ‘ukulele, flute, koto – with special guest artists from Japan & the U.S. Praise for his talents reaches far and wide, The Grateful Web, NY noted, “His ability to interweave … the traditional taiko style of playing with … jazz drumming has enabled him to create an incredibly dynamic style of performing that captivated the audience and was literally breathtaking.”

Kenny Endo Contemporary Taiko Ensemble 40th Anniversary Tour performs on Thursday, October 22, 2015 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are priced at $19-$39; Premium $45. Tickets are available online at or from Harris Center Ticket Office at 916-608-6888 from noon to 6 pm, Monday through Saturday, and two hours before show time. Parking is included in the price of the ticket. Harris Center is located on the west side of Folsom Lake College campus in Folsom, CA, facing East Bidwell Street.

Originally trained as a jazz musician in the Asian American cultural renaissance of 1970s California, Endo began his taiko career first with L.A.’s  groundbreaking Kinnara Taiko, and then with the renowned San Francisco Taiko Dojo, the first kumi daiko group outside of Japan. In 1980, he embarked on a decade-long odyssey in his ancestral Japan, studying and performing with the masters of ancient classical drumming, traditional Tokyo festival music, and ensemble drumming. Endo has the honor of being the first non-Japanese national to have received a natori (stage name and master’s degree) in hogaku hayashi (classical drumming). In the hogaku world, Endo is known as Mochizuki Tajiro.

In the greater musical world, “Kenny Endo” has become synonymous with “taiko.” He is arguably one of the most versatile musicians in the genre, crossing easily between the classical Japanese style and his own neo-classical, globally-inspired variety. Among his many distinctions are an M.A. in Ethnomusicology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, an artist residency at the Lincoln Center Institute in New York, his own “Kenny Endo Day” proclaimed by the Mayor of Honolulu, and certificates of honor from the House and Senate of the State of Hawaii and Honolulu City Council.

Performing in Kenny’s unique, versatile and vibrant style. The Ensemble features leading musicians in contemporary Japanese music with a jazz sensibility, on taiko, flute, vibes, shamisen, and koto, in dynamic original compositions. The 40th Anniversary Touring Ensemble will be 3-5 musicians. Among the artists joining Kenny are: 

Abe Lagrimas on vibraphone, drums, and ‘ukulele. A versatile, award-winning multi-instrumentalist, Lagrimas performs with jazz artists (Eric Marienthal, James Ingram), Hawaiian artists (Jake Shimabukuro, Don Tiki), and many others.

Kaoru Watanabe on the Japanese bamboo flutes (nohkan, ryuteki, shinobue), Western flute, and taiko drum. Watanabe is the #1 transverse bamboo flutist in the US, a former artistic director, and principal flutist of the renowned Taiko performing arts ensemble, Kodo. 

Masaru Koga on flute and drums. Koga is an award-winning, multi-instrumentalist who specializes in music that respects traditions and goes beyond styles and idioms.

Shoko Hikage performing koto and dance. Hikage is a creative and daring koto player (Japanese zither) and an experimental dancer. 

Michihiro Sato on shamisen. Sato is a highly respected tsugaru, known for the Northern Japanese percussive style of playing the 3-stringed lute shamisen. 

Hiromitsu Agatsuma on the tsugaru-shamisen (for select dates only). The rock star of shamisen players, one critic called Agatsuma’s performances with Endo a “musical pairing equivalent to seeing Eric Clapton and John Bonha… the show went to another level.”

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