Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | TaikoProject comes home to perform in LA’s Little Tokyo
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TaikoProject comes home to perform in LA’s Little Tokyo

TaikoProject brings its "Rhythmic Relations" show to LA's Little Tokyo

Another reason I wish we lived in LA: TaikoProject, the acclaimed genre-expanding taiko group based in LA, brings its talents home to perform its “Rhythmic Relations 2011” show this weekend outdoors at Noguchi Plaza in front of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center in Little Tokyo, 244 S. San Pedro St., Los Angeles.

There will be two performances, at 2 and 7:30 pm; tickets are $30 – $35 + service charges. Tickets are available online at www.jaccc.org or by phone (213) 680-3700. The group will be joined by Bombu Taiko, Kitsune Taiko and Loma Pacific Taiko, and the show will feature special guest Ryutaro Kaneko (former Artistic Director for the superstar Japanese taiko group Kodo).

You may have caught TaikoProject this week on “The Voice,” the terrific NBC singing competition show (we’re cheering for Dia Frampton, and not just because she’s Asian American — hapa Korean). You may have also seen TaikoProject way back in 2006, playing on a Mistubishi car commercial (I remember at the time, thought it was totally cool to see a taiko group on a commercial).

Here’s how TaikoProject describes itself:

Over the last 11 years, TAIKOPROJECT has established itself as the leading creative force in North American taiko, developing some of the most ground-breaking work and collaborative works in American taiko history to date.

In 2000, the group formed and developed an innovative new taiko theatrical production, “(re)generation,” which rethought what a taiko concert could be, infusing video, multimedia, dance choreography, storytelling, and hip-hop rhythms into what the LA WEEKLY called “not your mama’s taiko, but it may be your hip, younger cousin’s.”

In 2005, TAIKOPROJECT was selected from an extensive audition process to serve as the creative lead for the now iconic Mitsubishi Eclipse national commercial ad campaign, widely regarded as the first and only major corporate advertising campaign to feature taiko drumming. Also in 2005, TAIKOPROJECT became the first American taiko ensemble to compete in the Tokyo International Taiko Contest, Japan’s most highly regarded taiko contest, and became the first American group to win First Place. They are still the only non-Japanese group to have ever won the top prize.

In 2008, TAIKOPROJECT recorded tracks with famed music producer Squeak E. Clean for another major commercial, Nike’s “Fast Forward” commercial featuring Kobe Bryant and Maria Sharapova, and after hearing the tracks, hip hop musician Kanye West asked the group to record backing tracks for his national “Glow in the Dark” tour.

In 2009, TAIKOPROJECT was selected to perform in the 81st Annual Academy Awards alongside John Legend and A.R. Rahman for the international telecast. In 2010, TAIKOPROJECT was invited to perform with the rock band 30 Seconds to Mars at the famed Greek Theatre in Hollywood, and also with music legend Stevie Wonder at the Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee.

Most recently, TAIKOPROJECT performed with Usher and Justin Bieber as part of a musical medley at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards, broadcast from LA’s Staples Center.

This is a group that’s bringing taiko and Japanese culture to whole new audiences at every opportunity. Damn, I wish we lived in LA!

Meanwhile, those of us in the hinterlands can click through TaikoProject’s YouTube channel. Here’s one video below, all ninja’d out and performing with Justin Bieber and Usher at the Grammys: