Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Two-Time Grammy Nominated Hiroshima Kicks off 2013 Spring Tour at The Laguna Playhouse, with Special Guest Taiko Master Kenny Endo on April 15, 2013

Two-time Grammy nominated American jazz fusion band Hiroshima kicks off their 2013 spring tour at the Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach, CA, with special guest artist Taiko Master Kenny Endo, on Monday, April 15, 7:30 p.m. This special performance is part of the Jammin’ Concert Series at the Laguna Playhouse and will feature new music from their latest CD Departure, the follow-up to their 2010 Grammy-nominated Legacy CD. Click here to purchase tickets or call (949) 497-2787 ext. 225 for more information on the show.

HIROSHIMA. Photo by Jaimee Itagaki

HIROSHIMA. Photo by Jaimee Itagaki

Since galvanizing the instrumental music world with its unique East meets West approach in the late 70s, Hiroshima has always kept its eye on a distinctive One World philosophy which seamlessly blends Asian and North American culture to reflect both cultural and spiritual connections. This year marks 20 years since the band’s unique combination of distinctively Japanese elements-June Kuramoto’s classical flavored koto, Johnny Mori’s booming taiko drum-with funky pop, urban and jazz sensibilities first hit the instrumental music charts, and 25 years since saxophonist and East L.A. native Dan Kuramoto, along with June, first formed the ensemble. Also featured in the band are Kimo Cornwell, Danny Yamamoto, Dean Cortez and Shoji Kameda.
Dan Kuramoto co-founder and leader of the band stated, “After more than 30 years in the recording industry — and almost 4 million records sold we’ve decided to leave record companies behind and venture on our own. “It is a new beginning for us in many ways. Departure is a journey of nine songs — all originals with just one guest artist, the incredible harmonica player Tetsuya “Tex” Nakamura. The opening track “Have You Ever Wondered,” is a luscious, textured piece featuring Nakamura and June’s shimmering koto.

“Koto Cruise,” is the second song and features a funky groove and a burning koto solo, “Blues for Sendai,” a soulful jazz blues piece, is dedicated to the spirit of the Japanese people who are rebuilding after the tragedies of March, 2011. The rockin’ blues in “Smiling Jack,” recalls the music of the 80’s and features the roaring B3 organ playing of Kimo Cornwell The sensual soul of “See You Again,” is a tribute to our friend and mentor James Moody. If you listen closely you’ll hear “Moody’s Mood for Love.”

After many years of requests, we offer our first live taiko recording, “Yamasong Duet” – – capturing the voice and the thunder of Shoji’s taiko and Danny’s fierce percussion interplay. The power and spirit of “First Nation,” a composition by the Hawaiian Kimo Cornwell, is a song embracing many native cultures – – and some serious jazz.

Departure ends with two new visitations to our most popular songs, “Thousand Cranes,” and a soulful version of “One Wish,” done as an acoustic trio.” Departure is available on the Hiroshima website, iTunes,, facebook and CDbaby.

Kenny Endo. Photo by Lia Chang

Kenny Endo. Photo by Lia Chang

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Kenny Endo began early training in western drums and percussion. He began his taiko career with the first two kumi-taiko groups established outside of Japan – L.A.’s groundbreaking Kinnara Taiko, and then with the renowned San Francisco Taiko Dojo. In 1980, he embarked on a decade-long odyssey in his ancestral Japan, studying and performing with Osuwa Daiko, Sukeroku Taiko, Oedo Sukeroku Taiko, Hogaku Hayashi with Mochizuki Ryu, and Matsuri Bayashi with Maru Kenjiro He has the honor of being the first foreigner to have received a “natori” in hogaku hayashi.

In the greater musical world in America, “Kenny Endo” has become synonymous with the word “taiko.” He is one of the most versatile musicians in the genre, crossing easily between the traditional and his own globally-inspired style. Endo also has an MA in Ethnomusicology and is highly sought after for educational programs and workshops.

Endo has recorded five CDs of original taiko compositions and his latest CD release is “Convergence”, a collaborative work with Kaoru Watanabe, which is now available on CD Baby. He was a featured artist on the TV special “Spirit of Taiko” in America and as artist-in-residence at New York’s Lincoln Center Institute. A consummate artist, he blends Japanese taiko with rhythms influenced by his jazz background and by collaborations with musicians from around the world. He has performed for musicians Prince and the late Michael Jackson, as well as the late Princess Diana and Prince Charles. He has performed with Japanese musicians Hayashi Eitetsu (taiko), Sato Michihiro (Tsugaru shamisen), Semba Kiyohiko (percussion), Watanabe Kazumi (jazz guitar), Uzaki Ryudo (rock & roll), Koinuma Hiroyuki, Leonard Eto, Hirota Joji, John Kaizan Neptune, Christopher Yohmei Blaisdel, Amanojaku, and many others. He opened for The Who, performed a duet with singer Bobby McFerrin, and is featured on the soundtracks of Kayo Hatta’s “Picture Bride,” and “Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now.” He also recorded in motion capture suit for James Cameron’s “Avatar.” He has also performed as guest soloist with the Honolulu Symphony and the Hong Kong Philharmonic, traveling across Asia, Africa, Europe, Oceania, the former Soviet Union, and the Americas in his effort to share taiko with the world. Endo had a day named for him – “Kenny Endo Day” – by the Mayor of Honolulu, and was honored by the National Endowment for the Arts for American Masterpieces.

Other Articles by Lia Chang
Living Colour Vivid 25th Anniversary US Tour – Spring 2013
Kenny Endo and Kaoru Watanabe Celebrate New CD, Convergence with Concerts in Washington D.C. on February 27 and in New York on March 5, 2013
André De Shields Returns to The Laurie Beechman Theatre with I Put A Spell on You, October 5 and 12
Tony Award Winner Tonya Pinkins Celebrates Ethel Waters at 54 Below on August 27, 2012
Faith Prince and Jason Graae: The Prince & the Showboy in Concert at 54 Below, August 21-25, 2012
Two-Time Grammy Nominated Hiroshima Performs at Yoshi’s Oakland, August 17-19, 2012
H I R O S H I M A in Benefit Concert for Japan on 9/21 at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in NY
Foremost American Taiko Artist, Kenny Endo, to perform in Tokyo on April 24 and April 30
Marva Hicks and the Columbus Jazz Orchestra light up the Southern Theatre with a “A Night at the Apollo”
Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto Celebrates 50 Years of Koto Music at Lakeside Theater in Oakland
Kenny Endo 35th Anniversary Concert Tour
Koto Oyako don CD Release Concert, w/Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto & Brian Mitsuhiro Wong, Numi Tea Garden, Oakland
Kino alu Sundays with George Kuo, Martin Pahinui and Aaron Mahi at Waikiki Beach Marriott
Multimedia: Living Colour in Concert at the Highline Ballroom Photos
Multimedia: Oumou Sangare, Will Calhoun at Central Park Summerstage
Multimedia: Asian Pacific American Month Celebration at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Hanami Daiko at Drom
Richard Bona & Lionel Loueke in SF Jazz Spring Season
Charnett Moffett Trio The Art of Improvisation CD Release Party at Iridium
On Ensemble, Kenny Endo and Kaoru Watanabe in Taiko x2 at Cerritos Center
Performing Arts Images from the Asian American Pacific Islander Collection on Display at the Library of Congress to Celebrate APA Heritage Month
Photos: Yellow Fever Playwright Rick Shiomi Explores New Territory with An All-Female Cast
here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. She is a Signature Theatre alumni who was in the cast of Sam Shepard’s Chicago, during his Signature 1996-1997 Playwright-in-Residence Season.
All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2013 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at

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