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Gendo Taiko presents community concert ‘In Return’ with performers across country

Culminating performance of 2024 East Coast Taiko Conference showcases ensembles, performers

<p>The performance seeks to “celebrate taiko not only as a performance art, but also as a form of cultural expression and community building,” said Gendo Taiko Co-Director Kikuyo Shaw ’24.</p>

The performance seeks to “celebrate taiko not only as a performance art, but also as a form of cultural expression and community building,” said Gendo Taiko Co-Director Kikuyo Shaw ’24.

Taiko performers from across the world assembled Saturday to present a community concert, “In Return,” at the Lindemann Performing Arts Center.

Sponsored by the Brown Arts Institute’s IGNITE series, the concert served as the culminating performance of the 2024 East Coast Taiko Conference, which was hosted on College Hill by Gendo Taiko over the long weekend. This was the first time the ECTC had taken place since before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the conference brought performers and ensembles from collegiate, community-based and professional backgrounds. 

“We are gathered here to celebrate Taiko, not only as a performance art but also as a form of cultural expression and community building,” Kikuyo Shaw ’24 said, addressing the audience before the show began. Shaw and Filbert Aung ’24, the co-directors of both Gendo Taiko and the ECTC this year, were also emcees for the evening’s performance.

Shaw explained that though the majority of Gendo Taiko’s current members had never attended a Taiko conference before, she had been able to attend CONNECT 2022 hosted by Mark H Rooney Taiko School in Washington D.C. — an experience she says inspired Gendo’s decision to host the ECTC in 2024.


Gendo Taiko’s Senior Advisor Sam Leung had also attended Taiko conferences in the past, including the most recent ECTC in 2020 during his first year at the Rhode Island School of Design. As the concert coordinator for ECTC 2024, Leung noted that he especially hoped to give this concert more grounding than others he had performed in before.

“Right before we perform or rehearse, it’s always a practice to ‘aisatsu,’ or to greet everyone, and to ‘mokuso,’ or to meditate together,” Leung told The Herald. “That was something that was missing from concerts at previous conferences, so I really wanted to make sure that the concert itself and the performers felt grounded together.”

The concert opened with a performance of “Omiyage,” a popular Taiko composition originally written by Shoji Kameda to express his love for Taiko. “Omiyage” spotlighted various Taiko groups from across the country on stage. 

The show then featured several community-based ensembles, including Odaiko New England of the greater Boston area, One Miracle in New York Taiko of New York City and Miyako Taiko of the Mark H Rooney Taiko School. Collegiate groups also took the stage, with performances by Cornell Yamatai and Swarthmore College’s Taiko ensemble.

Gendo Taiko closed off the first act with a three-song medley in celebration of the group’s 20th anniversary this year. The performance included a combination of “Miyake” — a popular Taiko piece and one of the earliest arrangements in the group’s repertoire — as well as two original compositions written by past and present Gendo members. 

“We wanted to show the chronology of Gendo over time with our performance, and we also wanted to set ourselves apart from the other performing groups,” said Ethan Jiang ’25, one of the Gendo Taiko members who performed at the event. Jiang also composed “Cyclone,” the third song in the group’s medley, and noted that he was excited to bring what he learned from other performers at the conference into his future Taiko compositions.

The second half of the concert featured the professional Taiko performers and ensembles that had been invited to the ECTC as workshop leaders. Many of the performers were award-winning and world-renowned Taiko performers who came to College Hill from all over the world to contribute to the conference.

“The amount of talent that was amassed here in Providence was kind of astounding,” Jiang said. “I feel so incredibly privileged to have been a part of that.”

The second act contained a great variety of styles. Performances included large and booming ensembles and equally powerful duets, and ranged from comedic drumming and choreography to more traditional Japanese song and dance.

Leung said that when planning the concert, he sought to continue the themes of inclusivity that had been strung throughout the rest of the conference’s programming. For instance, it was very important to him that performer Chieko Kojima was able to play “Hana Hachijo” live for the audience — 25 years after its debut. The song and its significance to Kojima as an artist had been a central discussion of the documentary film “Finding Her Beat,” which was screened as the first event of the conference.


At the end of the concert, all the professional Taiko artists returned to the stage for an “ECTC All-Stars” performance. Each of the performers was highlighted one at a time in a solo while the others kept a steady beat for them in the background. Leung noted that he felt it was important for conference attendees to see their workshop instructors onstage.

The all-stars number featured near complete improvisation, with each performer’s strong talents and years of Taiko experience shining through as they played.

As a regular attendee of Gendo Taiko concerts in support of her friends, audience member Jamie Saito ’25 said she felt especially amazed by the talent on stage Saturday. “I’ve never really seen professional Taiko before, so it was definitely cool to see so many different levels of skills and experience,” she told The Herald.

“It was cool to see everyone be so supportive,” Saito said of the close-knit environment created by the performance. “I felt like it was very much a community.” She added that, having grown up in Hawaii where Taiko is a big part of the culture, “going to see Gendo feels like going home.” 

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Such feelings of togetherness are central to the experiences of many Taiko performers. Shaw expressed that “the Taiko community has brought me more meaning than I ever could have imagined.”

Jiang added that despite how tiring and time-intensive it was for Gendo Taiko to plan the conference and concert, he and the whole group are very grateful for the experience. 

“The joy expressed through Taiko is something that’s really unique to the art form,” he said. “Seeing everyone grow together and tackle this conference … it’s truly so gratifying and fulfilling.”

Campbell Loi

Campbell Loi, a senior staff writer and copy editor for The Herald, is a junior from Syracuse, NY studying Public Health and International and Public Affairs. Outside of academics, she loves all things music and enjoys performing, arranging, and constantly listening to songs in her free time.

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