(at Baltimore Avenue)
Philadelphia, PA 19143
Kaoru Watanabe is a Brooklyn based composer and musician, specializing on the Japanese taiko drum and shinobue flutes.
Born in St. Louis to symphony musician parents, he studied jazz flute and saxophone at the Manhattan School of Music while also performing with New York’s Soh Daiko. After graduating, he moved to Japan to join the internationally renowned taiko drum ensemble Kodo, performing the taiko, traditional Japanese folk dance and song, and especially the various fue (bamboo flute) such as the noh kan, ryuteki and shinobue. From 2005 to 2007, Kaoru served as one of Kodo’s artistic directors and worked closely with the legendary Kabuki actor Bando Tamasaburo, an experience that had a profound effect on his artistic growth.
In late 2006 Kaoru left Kodo and returned to NY to teach and continue performing fue, western flute and taiko in a variety of musical and artistic settings. Recent projects have taken him across the US, Canada, Japan, France, Mongolia, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Trinidad, Honduras, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, France and Puerto Rico, Germany and United Arab Emirates. He has collaborated with artists including National Living Treasure Bando Tamasaburo, Jason Moran, So Percussion, Adam Rudolph, Kenny Endo, Stefon Harris, Kiyohiko Semba, Alicia Hall Moran, Tamango, Tatsuya Nakatani, Imani Uzuri, calligrapher Kakinuma Koji, visual artist Simone Leigh, Martin Scorsese, and was a featured guest on Yo-Yo Ma’s Grammy Award winning album Sing Me Home.
Watanabe has performed at venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum, Kabukiza, Minamiza, Blue Note NYC, and in all 47 prefectures in Japan and taught at Princeton, Wesleyan, and Depauw Universities, Colby and Dickinson Colleges, and Tanglewood Music Festival.
Fumi Tanakadate is a taiko artist and pianist born in Japan and currently based in New York. She has been studying taiko with Kaoru Watanabe since 2011. With a unique combination of an extensive musical expertise in European Classical music and a background in traditional folk dancing, drumming and flute playing from her local festival in Japan, she quickly became an active member of Néo, Watanabe’s ensemble that aims to blend the nostalgic sound of Japanese traditional festival and theater and the interplay of complex jazz improvisations. She has performed at Joe’s Pub, ShapeShifter Lab, Nublu, National Sawdust and Pioneer Works. Fumi has collaborated with Yuu Ishizuka, Sumie Kaneko, Shane Shanahan, Chieko Kojima, On Ensemble, Alicia Hall Moran and Satoshi Takeishi and performed in Kenny Endo’s 40th Anniversary Tour. Most recently, she was on tour with Kaoru Watanabe and Yuta Sumiyoshi of KODO as a trio.
Fumi also serves as an instructor at Kaoru Watanabe Taiko Center, teaching classes and giving educational workshops at local schools and colleges. Her former teachers include Mark H Rooney, Rogerio Boccato, and Mark Soskin. She also took workshops with Kenny Endo, Chieko Kojima, Patrick Graham, and Tetsuro Naito, and Yuu Ishizuka.
As a classical pianist, Fumi has performed throughout Japan, tri-state area, Austria, and Spain. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Earth and Environmental Sciences from Wesleyan University and a Master of Music degree in piano performance from Manhattan School of Music.
The concert will feature music from Kaoru’s new album Néo, which he describes as follows:
There is an intersection between nostalgia and ritual, where we can reminisce about ancient times and places which are distant from our present lives, but very close to our hearts – that place for me defines the Japanese notion natsukashisa, often translated as “nostalgia” or “a yearning for”. Living in Japan for close to a decade, I fell deeply in love with various traditional musics that instilled in me a sense of natsukashisa just from hearing one note. My fascination with this feeling inspires my compositions for this album.
To anchor the intangibleness of natsukashisa, I bring in improvisation, a musical concept I am obsessed with. I continue to emulate individuals from the worlds of jazz, Indian classical, contemporary classical and beyond who are able to spontaneously create fully formed, emotionally resonant music, often over complex rhythmic and harmonic structures.
This album is a snapshot of my ongoing journey to seamlessly meld these two worlds—the natsukashisa of old Japan with the intricate and thoughtful acumen of musics from around the globe.
Néo (pronounced neh-oh) is the name of both the album as well as the ensemble that is performing the music with me. The characters for Néo 音緒 can be interpreted as “sound cord”, the “beginning of sound” or even “unified sound”. Appropriately, Néo also sounds like NEO, suggesting a new approach to these ancient instruments.