Asian Women Kick Ass: A Study of Gender Issues within Canadian Kumi-Daiko Kim Noriko Kobayashi, University of British Columbia (? rholo by Steven Lj. 'ma) The pendulum has shifted for Japanese Kumi-daiko or Wadaiko (ensemble laiko drumming commonly referred to as taiko). from a site of hyper masculine musical performance, towards a reinterpretation along feminist values lor female players. Japanese taiko (literally meaning "big drum') has evolved from a male-dominalcd and -dcfmed lorum into a femaledominated performance an within North America.

The emergence of kumi-daiko in Japan was primarily assiiclated with masculine performances t:rystalli/ed in images of lean muscular men
fundoshi (loincloth) furiously drumming on large taiko drums. Gender issues in kumi-daiko have been acknowledged and discussed among members of the kumi-daiko scene in Canada and America (Tusler 2(M). ^). Mark Tusler' (2()(n) placed the ratio of women participating, as etnnpared to men. at 4:1 in North American kumi daiko (2(K)3).

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The city of Vancouver. British Columbia, approximates this high ratio of female to male participants, although in other parts of Canada some groups show an equal number of male and female participants. The development of this high density of female participants in Vancouver's kumi-daiko will be discussed in a case study format, examining Canada's Hrst kumi-daiko ensemble. Katari Taiko. and the emergence oi feminist stylized kumi-daiko.

Focusing on the Ibrmative days of Katari Taiko is instrumental in highlighting the framework that has continued to foster the large numbers of women engaged in kumidaiko within the local area, if not the greater urea of western Canada. Early Katari Taiko members played an important role in disseminating kumi-daiko throughout Canada via their performances and presentation of taiko workshops. ' The taiko workshops that Katari Taiko delivered across Canada, in addition to taiko instruction, offered models of kumi-duiko organizational structure and incorporated discussions of tbeir group philosophy (Uyehara Hoffman: personal communication. 005). Factors that encourage female participants to taiko will be examined as well as the possible reasons for the lack of male participants. Central to taiko's appeal for Asian women is the deconstmction of gender/racial stereotypes and the reconfiguration of gender constructs, and issues of gaining visibility. cuUural representation, and self-empowerment. Not only iire there a majority of women engaged in taiko in Canada, but there are also groups that have a membership restricted only to pan-Asian women, a uniquely Canadian feature.

The presence of panAsian, all-women taiko groups allows them to align with feminist issues and creates a site for Asian feminist community building. The space of allwomen ensembles encourages the participation of queer (lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered) membership. Kumi-Daiko Background Kumi-daiko s development can be traced back to jazz drummer Daihaehi Ogucbi in 1951. Inspired by his jazz drumming background. Oguchi explored the interlace between jazz drumming and traditional taiko druiTiming in a series of contemporary compositions (Alaszewka 2001 ).

Oguchi's performance of kumi-daiko with his highly intluentiai and innovative ensemble Osuwa DaIko at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics brought kumi-daiko nationwide attention in Japan (Alaszewka 2001). The growing popularity oi" kumi-daiko was shared by other groups around Japan, most notably Oedo Sukeroku Daiko. ZlaOndekoza. and Kodo. While Oguchi is often credited as the father of kumidaiko. Tokyo based Yushima Tcnjin Sukeroku Daiko (founded in 1959) played an inHucntial role in the kumi-daiko style that developed in America.

Sukeroku Daiko performance style distinguishes them from other kumi-daiko groups of their era; incorporating a side stance with a focus on speed, lluidity. power, flashy solos and a strong sense of choreography. This is a contrast to the upright playing stance of the traditional form. A rift occurred among the members of Yushitna Tenjin Sukeroku Daiko and a splinter group was formed. Ocdo Sukeroku Daiko. ' The formation of American kumi-daiko groups heralds ihe entry of women inlo taiko drumming. While Japanese social conventions may have prevented Japanese wortien from participating in kumi-daiko. his was not the case in America. Seiichi Tanaka formed the first kumi-daiko group in America. San Francisco Taiko Dojo (SFTD), in 1968. Seiichi Tanaka is recognized as the father of American taiko and nurtured the formation of many taiko groups around America. The majority of taiko groups credit a stylistic debt to Oedo Sukeroku as interpreted by the San Francisco Taiko Dojo (Terada 2(X)1). Kinnara Taiko of Los Angeles was formed in 1969 and became the first North American Buddhisl taiko group. Masao Kodani, the minister of the Senshin Buddhist icmple in 1969. founded Kinnara Taiko.

Kinnara Taiko crealed a unique American hybrid of Japanese American Buddhist taiko thai inspired ihc formation of other Buddhist-based kumidaiko groups (Fromartz). The growth of taiko in North America iKcurTed in the laic 196()s amidst an era that was politically charged in the aftermaih of the civil rights tnovcmcnl. For many Japanese-American and Japanese-Canadian conmiunilics. the po. stwar climaie in North America was focused on cultural recovery from the effects of intcmmcni in World War il. Kumi-daiko becatne an cffeclivc vehicle lor bringing together Japanese descendants into their community.

Japanese descendants could reclaim and embrace iheir cultural heritage and identity through the loud and powerful performance of taiko. San Jose Taiko. founded in 1973. has directly inspired ihe formation ofCanada's first kumi-daiko ensemble. Katari Taiko. San Jose Taiko had a membership thai identified with the Asian-American movement and was engaged in Ihc renewal of Japanese-American communities. Their political basis included a non-hierarchical model of collective organization. More importantly, they had a high number of women participants, which proved to be inspirational. A. sian Woiiwii

Za Ondekoza (demon drummers) was formed in 1969 by Den Tagayasu. who gathered a group of disenfranchised youths and retreated to the Japanese Island of Sado, abandoning Japan's modernizctl urban lifestyle in pursuit of Japanese traditional arts. Initially the aim was to establish a "Craftstnan University' where traditional Japanese crafts and folk arts could be taught in the context of a communal lifestyle. The fortnation of a kutni-daiko group was one of many projects initiated (Alaszewka 2001). Dedicated lo taiko drumming as a way of life, they participated in daily rigorous training of drumming and marathon running.

A division in Za Ondekoza led to a fragincniation. whereby a new group was formed in 1981, named Kodo, Kodo gained international fame in the 1980s while a new and rcvitali/cd Za Ondekoza rc-emcrged lo prominence in the I990s (Alaszewka 2(K)I). The kumi-daiko drumming in Japan of Ihesc aforementioned groups was essentially a performance art mapped out as a masculine territory. Athletic aesthetics and stamina-driven drumming styles were valued and epitomized in early Japanese kutni-daiko. Za Ondekoza'' was infamous for Ihcir running tours where they would literally run from one performance venue to another while on lour.

They completed the 1975 Boston Marathon before performing upon stage, much to their renown. Raging Asian Women The Vancouver Phenomenon accessible and it was loud and it called attention lo yourselves. And it said, 'We're here! ' And that's what we wanted. It was the perfect vehicle for those of us who were looking tor ways to express our heritage in a performance. And for those [K'ople who had never performed, especially the women, it was a way lo he a role model for other Asian women. Il was a way to break the stereotype of submissive, passive Asian women OR the whorish. heart of gold, erotic, sexy Asian women.

You know, because nobody is going lo lake you on. if you're standing up there swinging a slick, hilling the drum really loud. No one is going to say. "Cuiie pie', right? 1 mean it was perfect and as it tumed out for most American laiko groups, it aitraeted women. Kage) Mayumi Takasaki. a founding member of Katari Taiko. offers a cross-cultural perspective on her llrst encounler with kumi-daiko gained from her experience of living in Japan. During her time in Japan, she studied Japanese gender-specific art forms, which allowed her to compare traditional Japanese art forms to the contemporary performance of kumi-daiko {p. . , 2005): Seeing San Jose play really was inspiring because they were like me. I was brought up in Sleveston with a large number of Japanese people. I did odori (Japanese classical dance) and when 1 was in Japan. I did lea ceremony, ikebana (tlower arrangement). koio (Japanese /ilher) and all those kind of things. But then I was a product of the lale 6{)s and early 70s when the women's movement was happening. So coming back lo thai after Japan, being ihrusi inio the whole rebirth of my community and then . seeing this form, this musical form that had nothing to do with lovely dainly women and was so enthusiastic, fun. nd joyful - ii seemed like ihe thing lo do. "Yeah, let's tbrm a taiko group, it looks like a lot of fun, you can do it with all of your friends. ' And there were no set boundaries. A great inspirational flame was kindled in many Asian-Canadian women who witnessed San Jose Taiko's performanee in 1979. San Jose Taiko members mirrored certain personal aspects of future founding Katari Taiko members in several ways: many members were sansei's {third generation of Japanese descendants), engaged in Japanese community activism, inspired by tbe Asian-American movement taking place, and actively exploring faeets of their Asian heritage (Takasaki, p. .. 2()O5). Founding members of Katari Taiko had been exposed to kumi-daiko performances by Japanese groups and San Franei. sco Taiko Dojo {SFTD). These performances, distinguished by strength and alhletieism, did not have the appeal that San Jose Taiko offered in musical style and group philosophy. Takasaki explains this circumstance (p. e. , 2005): Practicinfi on ii Vancouver An examination of kumi-daiko's gender issues in Canada begins in Vancouver with the establishment olCanada's first kumi-daiko ensemble - Katari Taiko. Katari Taiko was formed in 1979 by a large number of women.

This set the stage for Vancouver s prominent female representation in kumi-daiko to create a self-perpetuat ing dominance of female taiko players. ' Pan-Asian women see others like themselves performing kumi-daikt) on stage and gravitate towards the "big drums. ' Early members of Katari Taiko, as well as seasoned taiko drummers, were approached for their opinions on the high numbers of female kumi-daiko players in Vancouver. Founding members of Katari Taiko concur that the performanee by San Jose Taiko at the Powell Street Festival^ in 1979 was a pivotal point in the history and development of kumi-daiko in Vancouver.

Linda Uyehara Hoffman, a founding member of Kalari Taiko. deseribes her impressions of seeing women performing kumi-daiko {p. e.. 2O()2): We'd seen taiko |betbre seeing San Jose Taikol, but we d seen Kodo. ihey were called Ondekoza, we had seen Ryujin Taiko that came to the tlrsi Powell Street Festival. Now Ondekoza was phenomenal. Ryujin was fun to watch, but they were al! men and.... y()U know :i lot of us were women. We didn't look at them and think. "Gee I'd like to do ihat. " Biii when San Jose Taiko came, they were like mixed men and women. The taiko they played was different. They looked like they were having fun.

Nol just, like, power drumming, " ll wasn'l macho. Il was powerful. but yet it had tluidity lo it. They moved around a lot more and they looked like they were having fun. And Ihat's what we wanted lo do. We wanted lo have Tun and we wanted to be strong. It was ;m incredible attraction for all of the women who were working on tbe Powell Street Festival. It was a Japanese an form that wasn't subtle, that didn't require a million years of training, it was Yeah, because San Jose's history Is kind of like ours: it grew out of the Buddhist church with a bunch of Iriends. whereas SFTD is Tanaka's dojo.

While Tanaka-sensei has said thai more guys should play and his suggestion to KataH Taiko was, 'You must get more guys to play. ' The style of laiko ihat he plays, and his group, is a high testosterone level of taiko. so obviously it is going to attract tho. se kinds of guys. You would have to be a tough WQman to think, '1 can play with those guys. " So a group develops a kind of a persona, you attract tho. se kinds of people who feel ihal ihey would enjoy being a part of that group. Takasaki attributes the large number of women in Kaiari Taiko's formative years to the fact that many members were volunteers at Tonari Guml. he Japanese Community Volunteers Association. She comments that "traditionally more vi^omen do stx-ial services work than men. more women do volunteer work than men and work with seniors. " (p. c. , 2005) Uyehara Hoffman and Takasaki both indicate that many, if not all, early members of Katari Taikt) were volunteers of the Powell Street Festival. JapaneseCanadian community rebuilding is an impi)rtant factor during the era when Katari Taiko was formed, as well as the development of Asian-Canadian contemporary arts and identity. Katari Taiko. n essence, was an extension of the various community projects that Asian-Canadian political grassroots activists participated in during the late 197()s. Another reason for the high female membership of Katari Taiko may be related to the fact that they functioned as a collective. The group engaged in left of center politics and operated by a collective tirgani/ational process based on a non-hierarchical mcKlel similar to that of San Jose Taiko. The collective nature of Katari Taiko resulted in lengthy group discussions, hence the name Katari Taiko.

Japanese for "talking drums'. Several taiko players interviewed mentioned that group diseussions and processing might have discouraged men from participating. " ' John Endo Greenaway. a founding member of Kaiari Taiko, explains this further (p. c. , 3005): You had to accept the way it operated, like a eoilective. wbich is not ;in exclusively female domain, but had mt)re of a sense of "we work together and we work out things hy consensus. " There was not a lot of tolerance lor pushing things through, which is a male stereotype. The whole energy... it felt... can't say female... here was a group-ness, the collective energy of working together. You have to have a certain mindset to be ^ l e to tit in with that. One of the exciting features of the stylized kumidaiko of San Jose Taiko and SFTD, both displaying a variation of the Sukeroku style, is the strong emphasis on choreography with tluid movement. Leslie Komori. a former Katari Taiko member, notes that this movement-based form of kumi-daiko may not be particularly appealing for men; "I think that laiko is like dance, taiko has a strong dance component and maybe men feel intimidated by Ihat... hat they would not feel comfortable moving in their bodies. " {p. c. , 2005) In order to examine ihe gender question from another perspective. I Hipped the question around and asked Endo Greenaway about the low numbers of Vancouver men participating in kumi-daiko. He replied that "for men there is some trepidation, almost like it's an all female world, and 1 think a lot of men might feel uncomfortable, especially for men who are used to being in an all male context like sports and teams. As a male in the group, you were not the majority. " (p. c. 2005) An enduring male member of Katari Taiko, Jan Woo, offers a slightly different perspective. Woo speculates that the alpha male personality type may not persevere for long in a female dominated kumidaiko ensemble. Woo attributes bis staying power in ihe group to his strong "feminine side" (displayed by his love of shopping) as well as his love for perfonning. He adds that artistic men tend lo fare well in the group. While in agreement with Endo Greenaway that many men may llnd it undesirable to deal with a large number of women within a group structure, he also points out that en's accessibility to sports may explain why men may not be attracted to performing kumi-daiko: "So I think it's way down on the list of things that a guy looks at (in terms of recreation). Then you have to deal with a lot of strong women, and not a lot of guys are actually willing to do Ihat... It's not like you're the star quarterback surrounded by a lot of cheerleaders. " (p. c.. 2(K)5) Wottien do have access to team sports, but in a limited scope compared to the avenues that can lead to professional opportunities available to men. Eileen Kage, a former member of Katari Taiko. ontributes to the sports versus taiko discussion, drawing attention to the fact that the dominant culture offers few opportunities for women to be physically and visibly powerful. In sports, men's participation provides an ouilei for physical activity that is gloritled in a team effort. Taiko attracts women who long for access lo a polcnt medium that is a display of power in a puhlic act of performance, (p. c. , 2002) Kumi-daiko's gradual infiltration by American and Canadian women was facilitated by the fact that it is a contemporary performance art (although rooted in Japanese traditional music), unrestrained by ender-specific criteria. Kumi-daiko. as a site of musical performance, can meet the intersection of race and gender issues for female Asian participants. AsTakasaki and Uyehara Hoffman mentioned, taiko allowed them to break stereotypes of Asian women (depicting them as passive and submissive) while engaging In an Asian performance art form (hat promoted visibility. Taiko, with i(s loud sonic power, was an ideal medium lor Asian-Americans and Asian-Canadians to combat i. ssues of invisibility.

Dorinnc Kondo ( 1995) highlights the dilemma of invisibility: "Like so many people on the margins, Asian- Americans are generally erased from realms of cultural representation... when we arc depicted it is only to be stereotyped... a kind of symbolic violence that influences not only how we are treated by others, but also how we think of ourselves. " (49) Bonnie Soon, a perfonning member of Uzume Taiko (Canada's first professional kumi-daiko ensemble based in Vancouver), who is a third generation Chinese-Canadian, describes taiko as a way for Asian women to be powerful and connect to an Asian heritage, (p. .. 2005) I always admired the women that I saw who were taiko drummers and thought they had a lot of power and an ability to express, kind ot a side that [ knew was inside me. but never let it out. And it was a time that I was looking into being Asian because I spent my whole youth trying not lo be Asian. Tliat was the tlrst lime I studied something that had any connection to my Asian heritage. I never had a lot of Asian friends when 1 grew up - mo. stly Canadian girls. My whole Asian heritage side was not formed until I got really involved with the taiko community.

Smashing Stereotypes and Reconfiguring Gender Constructs Probing the gender issue of Katari Taiko's formative years brings to light a central feminist theme ot challenging racial/gender stereotypes and of women's self-empowerment. Tusler emphasizes how taiko is a site of sel! -rcdcnnitit)n. ".. .a torum for AsianAmerican women to invert and decenter the all-tooprevalent image of the quiet, submissive, homecentered Asian female by revising and reshaping taiko's longstanding male-centered image... taiko has become a contraJietion to that image" (2(K). : 119). Pervasive gender stereotypes are deconstructed through the performance of kumi-daiko by Asian women. Through this metamorphosis, new images and identities are constructed. Susan McClary {1991 ) notes. "It is in the accordance with terms provided by language, ritual, or music that individuals are socialized: take on gender identities, learn proper behaviors, structure their perception and even their experiences. But it is also within the arena of these discourses that alternative models of organizing the social world are suhmitted and negotiated. (21) Masumi I/umi (1998) views the performance of taiko as the antithesis of the stereotypical Asian woman's behavior, redefining Asian women through the actions of the body. Izunii lists the performing aspects of taiko which challenge stereotypes: an open leg stance, the powerful beating of the taiko drum, screaming and yelling with mouths wide open (Japanese women typically cover their mouths in public), and sweating from physical exertion. Deborah Wong" observes that, "Taiko speaks to a certain reconfiguration of the Asian-American woman's body and to a claim made on sonic and siK'ial space. Wong adds thai part of the appeal of taiko "lies in its redefinition of the Asian-American women's body and its dialogic relationship to "women's work' - I. e.. the nimble fingers behind the clothing and computer industries. " (2(KH): 74) . She contrasts the small-contained finger movements women perform in closed-olf sweatshops (o the large bold movements that women taiko players perform upon an open stage. Tusler (2003) mentions that there are many *big' a. specLs to playing kumi-daiko. Playing the "big' drum with 'big' sticks, making big' bold movements and 'big' sounds, all combine to present a 'big' visual and sonic experience.

Women can become larger than life through the performance of kumi-daiko. Taiko embodies the masculine, as much of the movements, basic forms, and wide grounding stance used in kumi-daiko, known as kata (forms), are borrowed from the martial arts (Tusler: 1995). Raging Asian Women Contrasting the 'big* aspects of kumi-daiko to the restrictive and contained movements of traditional nihon buyo (Japanese classical dance) might be helpful in understanding the appeal of taiko for women of Japanese descent. In my personal experience of studying nihon buyo as a child, the difficulty in learning the subtle and graceful feminine lyle is epitomized by the liny sieps taken with toes slightly turned inwards (the masculine style has a wider stance with toes turned outwards). It is an expression of constraint, aided by the snug wrapping of the kimono around the body, with the ohi (waist band) tightly wound around the waist. This is similar lo tbe use of corsets for women of the Victorian era, and can be understood as a physical and symbolic act of binding and restraining women. Tomie Hahn (2004) explains that in nihon buyo, a dancer can shift through multiple roles through a process of embodiment.

The enactment ofa character has a powerful effect, creating multiple idenlities. Through the embodiment of male characteristics in the performance context of kumidaiko. women taiko drummers project an identity of strength and command. Essential to taiko's appeal for most female taiko players is the concept of self-empowerment. Tiffany Tamaribucbi, founder of Sacramento Taiko Dan'', explains that taiko represents physical power, visibility, strength, and openness - all elements that can he very enticing.

For older women, there may be many appealing facets: "to be powerful in ways that they thought they could never be, to be physical without being violent, to share something of themselves, and to really express themselves. " (p. c.. 2002) Tamai Kobayashi, a former member of Wasabi Daiko. adds (p. c.. 2005), "Like Kixlo. tbey are very male-dominated, and for women to take up tbe drum is a very powerful, symbolic act of empowerment.. And also, just tor women to take the stage is quite a wonderful thing to see. It's very powerful to actually take up public space. Self-empowerment has been a rallying cry for feminists throughout the past several deeades. Tlie word "power* is inextricably linked with taiko and for women players tbe concept of . self-empowerment is a fundamental aspect to taiko. Early members of Katari Taiko were involved in the struggle for women's rights in addition to their concerns around AsianCanadian issues. As Takasaki points out. the civil rights movement was about minority rights and women's rights were under that umbrella, as well (p. c.. 2005).

However, feminist issues can be subsumed by other political issues to maintain group cohesion within a mixed-gender kumi-daiko ensemble. Komori, a founding member of Sawagi Taiko, higbligbts the difficulty of negotiating the intersections of race and gender issues within kumidaiko. She refers to the fact that Katari Taiko had a brochure from the 1980s stating non-sexism as a group value. Komori interprets non-sexism as a passive stance rather than the proactive stance of feminism (p. c. , Feb. 2005): With any type of oppression. I think being proactive is very imponaiu.

Structures are in place to perpetuate ptiwer imbalances. Without forees that are more proactive, power inibalanees remain. I think race politics can subsume issues of gender. 1 think genuer politics can subsume issues of race. It's a drag to have to face sexism with mixed-gender Asi an-Canadian groups. It's a drag to have to faee the racism of white feminist group. s. Komori also points out that the high numbers of women participating in kumi-daiko does not reflect women holding key positions of p(iwer witbin the group: "There's women participating and then there's women taking leadership roles.

Even if there's a lot of women in the group, there can be still be very deep sexistn that happens and continues to happen. " (p. c. , September 2005) One of the key points that Leslie Komori and other members of Katari Taiko" point out is tbe fact that despite the dominance of women in kumi-daiko. few were actually composing, a skill she perceives as indicative of taking leadership (p. c.. October 3, 2005): 1 define leadership as (creating) compositions. So Katari Taiko was a group that embraced nonsexism but not leminism. 1 think that stance might have allowed power imbalances based on gender to continue in the group.

So I ihink the gender imbalances existed in Kutari Taiko, especially in the area of composition. I'm nut sure what the gender make up was but I would guess that it was about 4 women to I man. However, all the pieces were written by men. I think composing requires a person to take a leadership position. Pan-Asian All-Women Kumi-Daiko Ensembles Sexism in the broader context of popular music led to the development by feminists in the 1960s i;f an alternative music scene for women known as 'women's music' (Lont 1992) or "women identified music ( Petersen 1987).

Lont indicates that "Women's music dared to emphasize the experiences of women in a eulture that ignored, devalued, or subsumed women's experience within males' experience. " (245) Women-identified music can be defined as music that is derived from the unique experiences of women, highlighting strong, selfreliant, and self-actualizing images of wiimen. and therefore is a political statement. (Petersen 1987) Tbe issue of women's music connects to kumi-daiko in Canada by the development of exclusive Asian women's kumi-daiko ensembles established during the 90s. Canada's first Asian women's group was Sawagi Taiko of Vancouver in 1990.

This was I'tillowed by the formation of the Toronto based Raging Asian Women (RAW) in 1999. There are currently other informal women's kutni-daiko groups trying to establish themselves. '^ Sawagi Taiko (pholo hy Jon Elder) Uyehara Hoffman's (a founding member of Sawagi Taiko) perspective illuminates further on this issue (p. c. , 2005): When Kalari Taiko retumed from thai gig [the Michigan Womyn's music festivall. one ot the men expressed unhappincss with the fact that we had all gone off and excluded the men. ! m nol quile sure why this didn't come up earlier because we'd discussed the thing.

Some of Ihe women didn'i go because they didn't agree with il, but none of ihe men said anything. When we returned, we thought about il and al thai time, we had iwo white people iti Ihc group who were both women. And if we were asked to do a gig that was tor Asians only. Katari Taiko would have thought about that because we would have been excluding women, though we had no compunction at all aboui excluding the men which made us think about our altitude. So Kalari Taiko decided thai as a community group representing the Japanese-Canadian community, it should nol take any gigs that excluded any members ofthat community, fiowcver. nowing that Michigan was going to ask the drummers to come back, a number of the women decided that we would form a separale group. And the understanding at that time in 1989 was thai Sawagi would use none of Katari Taiko's songs, and that we would do women-only performances solely, so as nol to set ourselves in competition with Katari Taiko. Sawagi Taiko continued to perform at women's festivals throughout the 1990s when such womenonly events were popular in the lesbian community. These included the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, the National Women's Music Festival in Bloomington. Indiana.

Wiminfest in Albuquerque, and Rhythmfest in Tuxedo, North Carolina. Sawagi Taiko has also supported a variety of organizations, such as International Women's Day. through their perfonnances, and been allied with Asian gays and lesbians. AIDS, and First Nations groups. Rugini- Asian Women An outstanding feature of ali-women's kumi-daiko groups is a foundation built upon a strong political agenda encompassing feministn. The demands of women's music festivals for all-women kumi-daiko groups served as a catalyst for the emergence of Sawagi Taiko, working wiihin an Asian feminist framework.

Komori describes some of the issues Ihat Katari Taiko faced, leading to the subsequent formation of Sawagi Taiko (p. c.. October 3, 2005). [n 1989. the women of Katari Taiko were asked to play at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival ** which ;it the time only admitted women ' and their sons under a certain age. There was a big dcbaie whether Katari Taiko could lake this gig. Many members, men and women included. felt that playing al a women-otily gig discriminated aguin. st the men in the group. So not all the women decided lo go. i can't remember the number. think eight or nine women decided lo go. In 1S)'XI. Michigan invited us back. However, ihis time members of Kaiari Taiko IcU ihai the women of Kalari Taiko should not be allowed to play bccau. se playing at a women-only event discriminated against the men in the group. They felt Ihat individuals could choose in play at Michigan, however, ihcy could not play preexisting Katari Taiko reperloirc. So the start of Sawagi did mark a shift in gender politics in laiko. moving from a group thai was non-sexist to a group that was inily feminist, although 1 don't think Sawagi ever really decided it wa. a feminist group. Bui in retrospect, il was great ihat sexism prevented ihc women Irom Kaiari Taiko from reluming in 1^90. bccau. sc Sawagi would have never formed and there would have been no imperative for a bunch of women to compose a bunch of pieces. Sawagi Taiko hy Kiin Noriko Kobayashi) aesthetic develops that Is an aesthetic appreciation for things which present women In a position of power (Ecker 1985). Some women whi) participate in these groups may not be politically inclined as feminists, but simply want to play taiko with other women.

As a member of the group, they become exposed to the ideals of gender and cultural empowerment. Kage, a founding member of Sawagi Taiko, confirms that the numerous women's festivals at which Sawagi Taiko performed exposed group members to feminist ideas that might have otherwise been inaccessible to them {p. c. , 2002). Creative Expression in All-Women Kumi-Daiko Ensembles Ellen Koskoff notes that in secluded all-female gatherings many stK-ial restrictions regarding musical performance are lifted. She explains that "this separation [from male society! erves the dual purpose of providing women a swially acceptable, if limited, forum for musical expression as well as an environment for the expression of gender identity" {1987:9). Female members involved in all-women's kumidaiko are thereby afforded a space to develop and explore their creativity and self-expression. Komori comments upon the intimidation that many women taiko players experienced around composing and performing drum solos: "Soloing is another thing. Some women would never solo. Soloing is u technique that can be developed.

A lot of solo is just ego and confidence. So that is a difference between mixed {gender) and women's groups. " {p. c. , Fcb. 2005) Lisa Mah, a founding member of Sawagi Taiko. finds taiko attractive as a useful way to explore . selfexpression and as a nontraditional outlet for her emotions. She points out that taiko enables her "to scream, shout, be loud and physical, hit drums really hard, jump around, and to explore different ways of being" from what she is accustomed, yet allows her to do something that represents herself as an AsianCanadian. (p. c. 2002) When Sawagi Taiko was fonned, the women had less than a year to prepare a 45-minute set made up of entirely new compositions, a challenging feat unheard of within the realm of kumi-daiko (Komori Feb. 2005). One of the compositions that came out of Sawagi Taiko's compositional frenzy is "Nohori," {a piece that has brought tears to the eyes of many femini. sts). composed by Lisa Mah. The central concept of Nobori, which in Japanese means 'to rise,' pertains to domestic violence, and the message imbued within the composition is a plea for those women enduring abusive relationships to gather the

Sawagl's web page states: These performances allow us not only to support the political woric of these organizations, but also lo reach specific parts of our audience - Asian Pacific Islander and people of colour communities, the lesbian, gay and women's communities. We would like to play for people who would be inspired by our strong Asian feminist artistic expression and share our commiimenl to ani i-oppression struggles. "" Formed in i 999, Raging Asian Women's {RAW) Taiko group is based in Toronto.

Ontario and has a group philosophy similar to Sawagi Taiko, incorporating a IVxus on feminism. RAW has performed at numerous community, feminist and queer events such as (Gay) Pride Toronto, Take Back the Night Rally, Queer Women's Cabaret- Gay Asians of Toronto and Lesbian Cabaret'^. RAW strives to be a role model as strong Asian women, having an anti-racisl feminist ideology f? used on "building community, being a voice for East Asians, and raising awareness around our histories and struggles that Asian people have had in tbe North American contex. t. {p. c.. 2005) Komori. a former member of Sawagi Taiko. describes that participation within an all-women PanAsian cn. semble created an opportunity for members to engage in a formidable performanee medium that allowed them to express their shared histories and experiences {p. c. , Feb. 2005); I feel that some of ihe power is thai we are coming from a similar history, so there is a power because we know what it is like lo be silenced as Asian women and Asian people and to have ihis powerful medium to express ourselves that raises the energy up much more.

So if you have a person coming from a different history, il Just wouldn't be the same symbiotic energy coming together. A. sian women working in an exclusive context can leam from strong role models. As often happens in these emancipatory groups, a collective feminist courage to leave. Mah describes the concepts of tbe different musical sections in "Nobori": The song does go from a calm (thinking aboui making life-allering changes in one's life) lu increased strength and courage {doing something to make ihe changes) and in the end. celebrating the change.

On a personal level. 1 know what it Uikcs to gel out of an abusive situation and hope ihat anyone in a similar situation can build their inner strength to make changes (p. c.. 2005). Many female taiko drummers interviewed express their attraciion lo the movement and choreography in kutni-daiko. This is evident in the repertoire of RAW and Sawagi Taiko. both groups that have movementbased compositions which arc accompanied by taiko drumming. The utilization of taiko and movement is a distinguishing feature of all-women kumi-daiko ensembles.

RAW has two pieces that are dance centered, "Matsuri" and "Mountain Moving Day". RAW'S "Mountain Moving Day" is choreographed by Suzanne Liska and guesi artist Shelly Sawada, and reflects the strength of women warriors. Liska describes the performance of "Mountain Moving Day"(p. c. , Shelly and I collaborated with Prithi N:irayan (playing the veetia, an Indian classical instmmcnt) and Gein Wong (spoken word artist), along with Amy Lin on the txlaiko and Helen Luu on the shime. The musicians improvise with the dancers, accentuating the changing dynamics of the story. Shelly and I. long with Prithi's coaching, developed the dance piece through contact improvisational movement. Through our cxploralion we created a myth about a woman warrior whose body and spirit had been divided. The piece begins wilh ihe two parts of herself. her animal ligcr side and her mountain spirit side, separate, unable lo unify. Rtti>ing Asian Women Although kumi-daiko in general has little textual content, a landmark precedent was Katari Taiko"s use of feminist poetry in ihe composition "Mountain Moving Day", which is based on a famous 1911 poem by a Japanese feminist woman.

Akiko Yosano (Uyehara Hoffman, p. c. , 2(X)5). Mountain Moving Day is coming I say so, yet others doubl it Only a while the mountain sleeps In the past all mountains moved in lire Yel. you may not believe it Oh. man. ihis alone believe All sleeping women, now awake, and move All sleeping women, now awake, and move. " Other textually based performances include Sawagi Taiko's piece called "Bar Doors," which incorporates poetry by Helen Koyama accompanied by drumming and performed in a theatrical fonnal set in a lesbian context by having the main character portrayed as a bulch woman.

Sawagi Taiko's repertoire includes Eileen Kage's composition "Ja Sawago" ("Let's Raise Hell"), that contains a rap play on kumi-daiko kuchi-shoga,^^ referencing gender inversion in the text: kaminoke nobashita otokf) no ko (boys with long hair) kan kim bozu tio onmt no /;» (bald headed gids) Feminist theatrics have been incorporated in Sawagi Taiko's past performances. In addition to "Bar Doors," ihey have staged a lesbian striptease interpretation of ihc mythological lale of the Japanese sun-goddess Amaterasu-no-omikami and ihe lesser goddess, Ame-no-Uzume-no-mikoto. uch lo the delight of their lesbian audience (Komori p. c. , 2(X)5). Sawagi Taiko has performed some pieces that are entirely movement-based such as Lisa Mah's "Wind". The nnivements in "Wind" are based on the martial arts form of wu shu and project bold images of Asian women in motion. Another movement-based piece is "Beacbcd Amoeba", where members evolve from micro-organisms into taiko drummers (Kage p. c.. 2005). Peterson notes that women's groups are radical and revolulionary by virtue of transmitting feministlesbian lexluai content.

She reilects that feministlesbian texts describe "the expression of women's oppression by men. the celebration of the beauty of women in their struggle lo overcome this oppression, and the beauiy of women loving women in a sexual relationship. " (1987: 206) Kumi-Daiko and Queer Issues There is a notable affiliation with queer culture in Canadian kumi-daiko (Kobayashi 1994). The numerous queer events that RAW and Sawagi Taiko have performed supports this fact. The feminist basis of these ensembles attracts lesbian membership and provides a site for them to express queer identity.

Wasabi Daiko was initially formed in 1984 as an inclusive group, but with membership changes developed into an exclusively pan-Asian ensemble and subsequently became an Asian 'gay. lesbian, and bisexual' group in 1992. Tamai Kobayashi discusses Wasabi Daiko's role in a queer context (p. c. , 2()05): We didn't look like the traditional A. sian stereotype. Like, we were visible—we were taking up public space, making sound, making noise and we were playing al venues where maybe you wouldn t have traditionally—these so-ealled 'not mainstream looking" women playing at.

And it' you followed us. we did have a huge following in the queer community. Wasabi Daiko. during their queer era, performed at many events addressing queer issues such as Gay Pride. They communicated a strong political message of combating racism and homophobia. Kobayashi discusses the politically-charged atmosphere during her time in Wasabi Daiko: "Also, we have to think about what it was like back then [the l990sl. It was after the fever pitch of identity politics. We were trying to do this queer pan-Asian eollective and it was very difficult. It was a Utopian idea. " (p. c. 2005) Kumi-daiko, as performed by feminists, attracts queer participants, although this fact may not be publicly proclaimed due to concerns of homophobia in the broader community. Komori attempts to di. scern the reasons why there are a significant number of Asian lesbians perlorniing kumi-daiko: I think that we have lo step outside of what expectations are and I think thai doing laiko is outside of what expectations are for Asian women, so I think there is a parallel there. It's a good buich thing to do—a good expression of buteh-ness. Mind you, femmes play too. (p. c.. Feb. (X)5) All-womcn kumi-daiko. with membership restricted to pan-Asians, is a unique aspect of Canadian kumidaiko. In general terms. American kumi-daiko encompasses the philosophy of Soiichi Tanaka. who envisions kumi-daiko as inclusive with regard to race, gender, and age. and not the sole domain of Asians (Tusler 2(X)3). Pan-Asian all-women kumidaiko ensembles allow members to develop their creativity, experiment within the conventional kumi- daiko format, and suppori various political and feminist agendas. As well, queer members enjoy a public space for expressing their sexual identities. Conclu. ion There is a Japanese mythological tale o[ Amaferasu and Uzume that is embraced by many kumi-daiko communities. Kumi-daiko drummers can trace taiko's origin to a myth()k)u;ical female figure. Uzume. goddess of minh. In the tale of Aniaterasu and Uzume, Amaterasu hid herself in a cave due to a prank thai her brother had played upon her. setting the heavens into darkness. At the request of the giKls, Uzume perfdrmcd a comical and ertitic dance, stomping her feet loudly and frenetically on an overturned wooden tub and drumming up a storm, much to the delight of all the gods who burst forth laughing.

The commotion lured Amaterasu out of her cave and thus returned sunlight to the heavens. This tale highlights the significance of Japanese women in the realm of entertainment as well as the power of their performances. Uzume's dance is considered to be the pnigenitor of Japanese music and choreography (Malm I9. '59). Kumi-daiko can lay claim to such divinely inspired performances as Uzume's stomping upon the wooden tub easts the goddess as the first taiko drummer. Japanese taiko drumming originates from female figures, yet women have not been assiK'iated with drumming until recently.

The table has turned with the return of women to the 'big drum' and their place of public visibility within the performance art of kumi-daiko. This examination of gender issues in Canadian kumi-daiko has outlined Katari Taiko's prominent female membership development and Ulustraled taiko's appeal lor women. Asian women have deconstructed racial and gender stereotypes, and created positive role models. Through the perfttrmance of kumi-daiko, women have gained visibility while connecting lo an Asian heritage, in a prtx;ess of self-empowerment.

Japanese-Canadian community rebuilding through taiko also plays a faclor in the high number of women participants, as many women were engaged in community by their acl of volunteering. The lengthy discussions and processing associated with collective organizations, integrated components of dance, and an environment dominated by strong women may have deterred men fnim jnining or remaining with the group. Men's easy access and encouragement to participate in sptirt may also help to explain why laiko may not be as appealing to them. Musical genres thai are differentiated along gender lines reinforce a particular tx'iai order reflecting existing power relations. Transgressing 10 these boundaries works to subvert the dominant social order, reflecting tbe changes that are taking place with regard to growth in socio-economic power that women are experiencing. Lise Waxer. in AllWomen Salsa Bands in Cali, points out that the rise of all-women salsa bands is reflective of these musicians' courage to challenge and reappropriate social conventions (2001 ). The emergence of pan-Asian-all-women kumidaiko ensembles has similarly challenged social conventions and contributed to Asian feminist community building.

These exclusive female ensembles can create opportunities for selfdevelopment and self-expression, encouraging women to pusb the creative boundaries of taiko. An all-women ensemble provides a space lor queer members to express their identities within a public forum. Kumi-daiko. as performed by women, heralds a renewal for tbe 'big drum. ' placing it back on a grand stage to create contemporary figures of Asian women that kick ass. I Kim Noriko Kohayashi acknowledges the support received from the National Association of Japanese-Canadians for her research into Canadiun kumi-daiko euseinhles. j

Notes ' Mark Tusler is an ethnomusicologist whose dissertation is a study of pedagogical aspcets of performance-centered kumi-daiko, "Sounds and Sights of Power: Ensemble Taiko Drumming (kumi-daiko) Pedagogy in California and the Conceplualizalions ol Power" (2003). and covers the broad aspects oileaming laikci within the structures of California kumi-daiko organizations. ^ It is important to note that the province of Ontario has experienced its own distinctive kumi-daiko evolution, under the auspices of Japan's Osuwa Daiko, Katari Taiko has had a minor impact in Ontario, largely through the detunct ensemble Wasabi Daiko. hich was founded by former members of Katari Taiko. ^ "Taiko Resource: Taiko Overview and History. " in The Roiling Thunder Taiko Resource lOnlint. ']. available: http:/www. ttaiko. com/resource/history. html;accessed 5 July 2001. • See note 3. * ^ Presently pertornung as Fuji no Yama Ondekoza, since their move to the city of Mt. Fuji in Shizuoka. Za Ondekoza web page |Online], available: http://www. ondekoza. eom/en/; accessed 7 December 2(X)5. '' Za Ondekoza is based on the philosophy of So^akuron. where running and music arc one and a reflection of the drama and energy of life.

Ondeko/a's unparalleled running tour began in 1990 at Carnegie Mall in N. Y. and ended with a memorial concert at Camcgie Hall on Nov. 12. 199. ^. They had . 155 performances and ran continuously for 1. 071 days, completing 14,910 km. Za Ondekoza web page lOnline]. available: http://www. ondekoza. com/en/; accessed 7 December 2(X)5. ^ This point is repeated by Mark Tusler (2003). Mayumi Takasaki (2005). and John Endo Greenaway (2005). " Powell Street Festival is an annual Japanese-Canadian community festival ofaits and culture that has been taking place since 1976 in Vancouver's historical "Little Tokyo. '' Power drumming refers to a style of taiko drumming that is based on strength and stamina. '" Kumi-daiko groups that engage in collective processing towards decision making have been cited as a deterrent for men's involvement (Mah. p. c.. 2(K)2. Woo. p. c.. 2(X)5, Endo Greenaway, p. c.. 2(X)5, Tamaricbuchi. p. c.. 2002. Komori. p. c.. 2(K)5) ' ' Deborah Wong's article, "Taiko and the Asian/American Body: Drums. Rising Sun. and the Question of Gender" covers the issue of gender and the Asian-American woman's body. iscussinj; ihc ct)mplcxities of how the body oi taiko players is gendered and racialized. '" Tiffany Tamaribuchi is :in internationally recogni/cd taiko master within kumi-daiko. She studied with Seiichi Tanaka and performed with notable Japanese kumi-daiko ensembles. She founded Sacramento Taiko Dan, JO-Daiko (an all-women kumi-daiko ensemble) and Tozai Wadaiko (a professional kumi-daiko ensemble). '"' Lisa Mah. Eileen Kage, and John Endo Greenaway also mention this point in their interviews. Mah refers. I had only been in the group for about a year and a half (1989) when 1 heard one ot the female founding members (in a public interview) talk about why no women had composed anything in Its nine year existence - even though most of the members were women. From my recollection, she said that the men had always taken the initiative to compose and that the women were a little intimidated to take on that role. " (p. c.. 2005) *" Kiyoshi Nagata mentions an all-women group. Onna No ' Ko. an extension of one of his University oi'Toronto groups. The author participates in an Asian women's kumidaiko practice group and assists ith taiko workshops for female residents using the Vancouver Downtown Eastside Women's Centre. '•' Michigan Womyn's Music Festival is the largest womenonly festival, started in 1976. attracting 8. 0(X) women annually. Cynthia M. Lont. "Women's Music: No Longer a Small Private Party," In Rockin ' the ? ioai: Mass Music and Mass Movements, ed. Reebee Garolalo (Boston. MA: South End Press. 1992). 246. "• Sawagi Taiko web page |Online]. available at; http://www. shinova. com/part/86-sawa/; accessed 26 (October. 2005. ' ' RAW web page [Online], available at; http://www. ragingasianwomen. ca; accessed 28 October 2005. * CD, Katari Taiko, Commotion. "Mountain Moving Day. " ' composed and produced by John Endo Greonaway. '''Kumi-daiko is essentially based on an oral tradition. Kuchi-shoga is a system ol' soliTiizaiion that functions as a mnemonic device in learning repertory. Tusler, "Sounds and Sights. " 80. 11 Copyright of Canadian Folk Music is the property of Canadian Society for Traditional Music and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.