Kenny Endo, Taiko Artist, Performs in Hilo

Submitted by Jan Higashi, Japanese Community Association of Hawaii

HPC REVISED Kenny Endo poster-3The Japanese Community Association of Hawaii presents a very special cultural performance by Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble on Saturday, May 14, at 6 p.m., at the Sangha Hall.

ke1“Kenny Endo is celebrating his 40th anniversary as a taiko artist and we are ecstatic that he and his ensemble.  He is at the vanguard of this genre, continuing to pave new paths in Japanese drumming.  He is a consummate artist, blending taiko with rhythms influenced from around the world into original melodies and improvisation. He is one of the most versatile musicians in the genre, crossing easily between classical Japanese music and his own ne-traditional, globally inspired variety.

Endo has the honor of being the first non-Japanese national to have received a natori (teaching license and stage name) in hogaku hayashi, classical Japanese music and is an internationally renowned taiko artist who was born in Los Angeles, attended the University of California at Santa Cruz and later transferred to UCLA where he was a member of Kinnara Taiko.  The group performed at Senshin Buddhist Temple where he met his wife Chizuko.

In 1980, the Endos went to Japan so he could study taiko.   “Originally we were only going to stay a year or two in Japan, but the more I studied and got into the music from Kabuki and Edobayashi (Edo festival music), the more I realized how little I knew, and it would take much longer than anticipated,” said Endo.   In the end, they stayed in Japan for 10 years and yet he felt there was still so much to learn.  In 1990, Endo applied to the University of Hawai’i at Manoa’s ethnomusicology program and to the East-West Center for a scholarship.

Endo wanted to start documenting what he did in Japan and to share the unique experiences working in Kabuki theatre.   To his surprise, Endo was accepted into the program and received the scholarship so the Endo family moved to Hawai’i.  While working on his graduate degree, Endo was approached by UH’s continuing education program to teach taiko, starting with four classes which eventually grew to 10.

In 1994, Kenny and Chizuko started the Taiko Center of the Pacific and offered public classes at the Kapiolani Community College chapel.ke2Artists performing with Endo in Hilo will be his wife, Chizuko, Kirstin Pauka, Mike Yamazaki and Patrick Oiye and also Noel Okimoto on drums, vibraphone and marimba, Yi Chieh Lai, guzheng or Chinese zither and Christopher Blasdel, shakuhachi.

Admission is $20 and tickets are being sold at the courtesy counters at KTA Super Stores – Puainako & Downtown Hilo.

The Japanese Community Association of Hawaii is a non-profit organization with a membership of 400 families whose mission is to perpetuate and promote the Japanese culture and to foster international relationships with cities in Japan.

For more information, call JCAH at 969-6437 or email:


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