Gen Taiko

Gen Taiko

San Francisco, California, United States

Founded 1995

Basic Information

    Fiscal Sponsorship
    Asian Improv aRts
    Professional performing group and taiko school

Background Information

Group's Mission and Motivation

Founded in 1995, the mission of Gen Taiko (GT) is to promote, preserve and present the Matsuri (festival) spirit in Japanese culture through taiko (traditional Japanese drumming), traditional folk dance and folk song forms. The meaning of Matsuri is deeply significant to Japanese American heritage in its focus on maintaining one's connection with ancestors, nature and community. The kanji (character) for "Gen" translates to "from the origin." GT serves the Asian American and multicultural community of the San Francisco Bay Area through: 1) Public Performances. 2) A Taiko school located at the Japamese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC). 3) School-site residencies and assembly performances. 4) Creating collaborations among traditional artists and with contemporary artists. In its 10th Year of programming, GT has served over 100,000 people from the Asian American and multicultural San Francisco Bay Area community.

Structure and Philosophy
Describe the ensemble's organizational structure and philosophy, including leadership structure, membership policy, and instructional process.

Gen Taiko pursues a broad community development strategy in carrying out its mission, working closely with organizations and institutions such as the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC), National Japanese American Historical Society, Nihonmachi Little Friends (multicultural daycare/after school center), Japanese Community Youth Council, Kimochi, Inc. (senior care center), Japantown Merchants Association and the Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program (San Francisco Unified School District).

The goals of Gen Taiko are to: a) Promote the role of traditional arts in maintaining and advancing the Japanese American community of the San Francisco Bay Area as well as the multicultural community at large. b) Increase public awareness and support for traditional artists as the living legacy of Japanese American culture. c) Increased public awareness of the contributions of Japanese American culture to the community at large.

Group History
Describe how, where, and why the ensemble was founded. What was its inspiration?

Recent Achievements include:
1) An average of 25 public performances per year for the past six years at various community events and festivals including appearances at the Japantown Peace Plaza, San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts as well as school performances through Young Audiences, Inc. In addition, Gen Taiko has produced 4 full evening length concerts at the JCCCNC and the Gershwin Theater at the University of San Francisco with its ensemble members, guest artists and students featuring traditional works as well as original music and theater pieces.
2) A popular taiko school located at the JCCCNC, which holds classes 5 days a week for 45 weeks per year providing instruction to 60 children (ages 4-14) and 15 adults. In addition to regular classes the school hosts special workshops with guest master artists in minyo (folk song) and bon odori (folk dance).
3) Residencies for over 600 student participants in the past two years at Jean Parker, William De Avila, Clarendon, Golden Gate, Lawton and Sutro Elementary Schools in San Francisco Unified School District ranging from 8 to 12 weeks teaching taiko and dance.
4) Collaborating in the launch of Sambasia, a samba school based in Japantown featuring collaboration between taiko, folk dance and Afro-Brazilian music led by CAC Artist in Residence Jimmy Biala. The resulting collaboration included 150 participants and was featured in the 25th Annual Carnival Parade through San Francisco's Mission District before 250,000 people.

List of Current Members

Gen Taiko currently has 50 members.

Membership Composition
(i.e. ethnicity, generation, average years of experience, musical backgrounds, and motivation for playing)

Children ages 4-11
Youth ages 12-18

Ethnicity: Japanese and Japanese American, Chinese American, Pilipino American, White, mixed heritage

Description of the group's community - regional, ethnic, social, etc.

Based in San Francisco Japantown, Gen Taiko draws its members from throughout San Francisco primarily with some members coming from the East Bay.

Biggest Changes
Describe two of the biggest changes that have characterized the group's development since its founding

1) Evolving as a primary resource for youth leadership development in the San Francisco Asian American community.
2) Integrating multiple art forms of taiko, odori, minyo as well as contemporary music and theater forms in the pursuit of the living tradition of Japanese cultural arts.

Performances, Recordings, Publications

List a selection of your regular performance venues (for example, Denver Sakura Matsuri, Seabrook obon, business conventions, Manzanar Pilgrimage, Maui Marathon, etc.)

Regular Performance Venues: SF Japantown Peace Plaza, Palace of Fine Arts, SBC Park (San Francisco Giants), Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California.

Special performances have been at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in 2003 as part of the US-Japan 150 Years celebration and at the 2004 San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival.

Instructors, Teachers & Mentors
List the instructors, teachers and mentors who have worked with the ensemble.

Melody Takata, Joy Evangelista, Victor Koga, Lenora Lee, Hideko Nakajima, Francis Wong, Jimmy Biala, Masakazu Yoshizawa, Tatsu Aoki

Taiko Collaborators
List a selection of taiko players or groups that have collaborated with the ensemble.

Tsukasa Daiko (Chicago)

Non-Taiko Collaborators
List a selection of non-taiko players or groups that have collaborated with the ensemble.

Tatsu Aoki, Francis Wong, Suz Takeda, SambAsia, Kaori Nakano, John Carlos Perea, Masaru Koga

Musical & Performance Styles
Describe the ensemble's musical and performance styles.

Integration of oedo sukeroku drumming style, contemporary theater, odori dance, through-composition, improvisation

Signature Works
Please include title, composer, date of composition, special reason(s) for composition, and what the work represents to the group.

Gen (named for the group), Umadoshi (for the Year of the Horse) - original compositions by Sensei Takata.

Also perform taiko classics Yodan, Miyake, Hachijo (in collaboration with minyo sensei Hideko Nakajima)
arranged by Sensei Takata.

Also versions of minyo classics Hanagasa Ondo, Soran Bushi and Tanko Bushi arranged by Sensei Takata for minyo singer, shamisen, kumi daiko ensemble and odori dancers in collaboration with Hideko Nakajima.


Melody Takata
P.O. Box 15282


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